A truly authentic gumbo starts with a roux made by slowly cooking equal parts of flour and oil together for nearly 30 minutes until it darkens to the colour of strong coffee. Mine is not an authentic gumbo in that sense, perhaps if I’m honest because I didn’t want to add an extra half hour to the process but mainly because I don’t eat wheat. In other respects, this is the real thing: it contains what Cajuns describe as the Holy Trinity of vegetables – onions, celery and green peppers as well as tomatoes, sausage and okra to which I’ve also added wild shrimp. It may technically resemble more of a stew but it is a delicious and relatively simple meal to make. Try it!
Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo
You will need:
• Andouille sausage, kielbassa or other spicy sausage, 1lb
• Olive oil
• Low sodium chicken broth, 6 cups
• Diced tomatoes, 1 x 28oz can, with their juice
• Bay leaves, 3 large
• Onions, 2 (I used cooking onions)
• Celery, 4 ribs
• Green peppers, 1 large or 2 small
• Okra, 1lb (I used frozen, 2 x 250g packages)
• Cayenne pepper
• Large shrimp (I used wild shrimp), 2lbs
For my dish I used so-called spicy sausages that I got from my butcher, not being able to find the Andouille sausage and judging the kielbassa to be a bit boring frankly but the choice is yours.
Heat a splash of olive oil a large skillet over medium heat then add the sausages and cook them, turning occasionally, until almost cooked through. (If using kielbassa sausage just slice it thickly and set aside.) Allow them to cool slightly then slice on the diagonal; set aside.
Put the chicken broth, diced tomatoes with their juice and the bay leaves in a large pot, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes (don’t be tempted to skip this stage as the broth reduces and the flavour intensifies.)
Meantime, prep. the vegetables: peel and finely chop the onions, chop the celery then de-seed and finely chop the pepper(s) – you should end up with roughly equal amounts of each vegetable.
In a large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low to medium heat then add the chopped vegetables. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened (do not allow to brown). Add a ¼ teaspoon (or more if you prefer) of cayenne pepper, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for a few more minutes.
Add the cooked vegetables, the okra and the sliced sausages to the pot of tomato mixture and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes until the broth has reduced slightly. I like to leave the okra mostly whole but I cut some pieces in half with scissors to help thicken the broth.
Add shrimp and continue to cook for another few minutes until opaque.
Serve by ladling into large bowls. I like to serve my gumbo either with white rice (that I cook with chicken broth) or with freshly baked cornbread on the side. Enjoy!
Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp
If you don’t already own it, buy yourself a copy of Jeffrey Steingarten’s wonderful book The Man Who Ate Everything; it’s hilarious as well as informative. In it he describes how authentic paella is made. This is about as far from the real thing as possible while calling itself “paella” but the point here is to create a simple, satisfying meal that captures the spirit of the original.
It is a case where the second meal looks very much like the first so I recommend making it two days later, i.e. if you made gumbo on Monday, serve the paella on Wednesday – leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for that length of time. You will need:
• Chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, 2-3
• Olive oil
• Leftover shrimp & sausage gumbo
• Rice, white, converted
Firstly, heat the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken pieces well on all sides over medium-high heat then set aside. When slightly cooled, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Remove shrimp from the leftover gumbo and set aside.
Measure the leftovers just so you know how much rice to add; I had 4 cups of leftovers, including sausage and vegetables and used 1 cup of rice. If, say, you only had 2 cups of leftovers, I’d suggest using half a cup of rice and so on.
Bring the gumbo to the boil on the stove, add the chicken then pour in the rice, stir to combine then let simmer, uncovered, for about twenty minutes until the liquid is virtually all absorbed.
Tuck the shrimp into the rice and continue to cook for another few minutes without raising the heat until the shrimp are heated through.
Ladle into bowls, top with freshly chopped parsley (optional); add hot sauce to taste.