If you’re like me, at some point in your life you have been seduced by a beautiful photograph attached to a recipe, only to find when you cooked the dish it seriously didn’t live up to your expectations. The food stylist and the photographer really knew what they were doing, and you fell for it hook, line and sinker.
I was looking through Bon Appétit magazine and a beautiful photograph of a Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo caught my eye. The curve of the shrimp, the spicy rounds of sausage, the red bell pepper, it was mouth watering to behold and I knew I had to make it. It was a long recipe, but the more ingredients a recipe has, the more likely I am to try it. The recipe said it served 16, which was ok as I have a 7 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven that has worked for every soup, stew and braise I have ever made. Little did I know that I was about to create a monster.
The first clue, that should have set off the alarm bells, was just the first two ingredients: one cup of vegetable oil and one cup of flour. I have never cooked a Creole/Cajun gumbo recipe before, so these large amounts didn’t mean anything to me. The recipe had a lot of tasty ingredients, so I blithely continued on. What did I know?
I went to the super market and bought all the ingredients, coming home with several heavy bags. I browned the roux, chopped and minced the vegetables, browned them, and a couple of hours later after the liquids were added, the level of stuff in the pot was within ¼ inch of the rim. I turned around and looked with dismay at the five pounds of chicken, sausage and shrimp sitting on the counter that still needed to be added. And this was my biggest pot!
I put the thing in the refrigerator over night, and the next day made a trip to my local kitchen equipment store, Cookin’ Stuff. I went to the stock pot section and finally ended up buying a 16 quart stainless steel heavy duty stock pot that set me back $100. I felt great satisfaction that I could now finish what I’d started, and, I told myself, if I ever needed to feed an army in the future, I’d have the pot to do it. (What a lame rationalization for spending all that money to make one soup recipe.) Boy, that gumbo better be worth it!
Back in the kitchen I put the gumbo base in the big pot and got all the meats incorporated. Finally, according to the recipe, it was finished. I tasted it to adjust the seasoning, and with a heavy sigh, came to the frustrating conclusion that it was blah! After buying all the ingredients, the time, energy and a new $100 pot, it tasted like chicken vegetable soup.
Well, I am not one to be defeated by a recipe, so I went to my cook book library and consulted the big boys, Emeril and Paul Prudhomme. And guess what, people, Bon Appetit had forgotten to add the spices, herbs and flavorings!! No wonder!
Well, it was back to the market to buy green onions, Emeril’s Essence, file powder, Worcestershire, Cajun’s Choice Shrimp, Crab & Crawfish Boil (which I think is the magic ingredient), and dried mustard. Every time I added an ingredient to the pot the taste just started jumping and sparkling. Now I was getting somewhere.
After fooling around with the seasonings, I deemed it finished. Oh man, it was amazing. But there was so much of it ! I had about twenty containers. They completely covered the bottom of my freezer and I had to stack everything else on top of them.
My neighbor, Gourmet Larry, is retired and a cracking good cook, the kind that has all his recipes in three ring binders by category in his office bookcase. He and I trade containers of things we make, so I took some Gumbo over to him. A couple of days later he came banging on my door to return the container. He told me he was a Gumbo Aficionado, had been eating gumbo all his life, and, he proclaimed, “That was absolutely the best damned Gumbo I have ever eaten!”
Gumbo ~ Shrimp, Chicken, Andouille Sausage
Adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine December 2006
with help from Emeril and Paul Prudhomme
Please try to find Cajun’s Choice Shrimp, Crab & Crawfish Boil. I got it at Ralph’s Market, but Cajun’s Choice has a great website where you can mail order. This is the original recipe cut in half.
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup all purpose flour
2 large onions, chopped, about 5 cups
3 red bell peppers, chopped, about 3 ½ cups
3 celery stalks, chopped, about 1 ½ cups
8 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
1 can low-salt chicken broth
1 ½ pounds andouille sausage (such as Aidells), cut crosswise into 3/8-inch slices,
…….sautéed separately, pan deglazed with soup, then added to soup
1 ½ pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces sliced frozen okra or more to taste, 1/2-inch slices
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
¼ cup green onions, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or more to taste
1 tablespoon Creole/Cajun seasoning (such as Emeril’s Essence)
½ tablespoon file powder
1 tablespoon liquid or powdered shrimp/crab boil (such as Cajun’s Choice)
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 ½ pounds raw, peeled, deveined medium shrimp
Minced fresh Italian parsley and sliced green onions for garnish
1. Heat oil in a heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot and almost smoking. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is dark reddish brown. About 5 minutes.
2. Add chopped onion, bell peppers, and celery and cook until onions are soft and brown, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.
3. Add garlic and cayenne and stir 2 minutes. Add wine, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
4. Add tomatoes with juice, clam juice, broth, sausage with deglaze, and chicken. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
5. Add okra and simmer till tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Optional: Gumbo base can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring base to a simmer before continuing the next day. Skim off oil if desired.
7. Add parsley, green onions and seasonings to the pot. Add shrimp and cook until just opaque in the center, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve with rice if desired. Garnish with minced fresh Italian parsley and sliced green onions.Print Recipe