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Cajun Food: Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
My pot of Gumbo
Please let me know what you think of this recipe:
Gumbo vs. Jambalaya
I bought shrimp, sausage, and okra, because I knew I wanted to make something hearty for the cold snap that hit our area, but also, to honor the upcoming Mardi Gras. I knew both jambalaya and gumbo used shrimp and were served with rice...however, what was the difference?
I did some research to satisfy my curiosity and what I discovered is, "They both use similar ingredients." Here are the differences I found: gumbo is a dish that cooks the rice separately and the gumbo is served on top of the rice. Jambalaya cooks the rice right in the pot, along with the other vegetables and meats. It's similar to the Spanish dish, paella.
Also, jambalaya will include both fowl and seafood in one pot, but gumbo never combines fowl or other meat, (with the exception of sausage), with seafood. Jambalaya may also include tomatoes, however, it's an optional ingredient for gumbo..
With gumbo, a thickener is added to the base. It can be okra, roux, or file. But, jambalaya does not add a thickener. The rice is added to the pot and perhaps that is considered the thickener.
There seems to be more similarities than differences. For instance, they both use the 'holy trinity' of vegetables: bell pepper, celery and onion. They both have been standard cuisine in Louisiana since the 1800's. Each dish has some variances to them; and finally, they are influenced by a broad cultural range: Spanish, African, Native American and French.
It appears that the variations of gumbo can be partially attributed to the area of Louisiana one comes from. Tomatoes are added in some of the gumbos that have had the vegetable readily available to them. The areas which did not have access to fresh tomatoes had more of a brown appearance from the roux.
Gumbo is serious business in Louisiana-it is the official state dish. And, each October there are several communities in Louisiana that hold annual gumbo festivals. In fact, Bridge City proclaims itself the 'Gumbo Capital of the World'. That is a mighty big boast, and one has to wonder how its neighbors feel about that claimed title.
You don't have to be on the Gulf of Mexico to enjoy authentic Cajun fare. If you're in Southeastern Michigan you can visit the Gumbo Restaurant and enjoy homemade recipes by owners, Jimmy and Terri Taite.
Better yet, buy the ingredients for this delicious gumbo dish and make it yourself.
Where to find Awesome Gumbo
Notes on this recipe
To create this recipe I used a combination of directions from two sources: Food and Wine: Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo by Grace Parisi, (2/2003 publication) and Good Housekeeping: Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo by Good Housekeeping.
Although either cooked or uncooked shrimp can be used, I chose to use the already cooked shrimp and removed the tails before throwing them in the pot.
I used fresh Italian Flat-Leaf parsley, adding it as the very last ingredient.
Good Housekeeping called for frozen okra and canned stewed tomatoes. I adjusted those two ingredients by simply replacing them with fresh, dicing the tomatoes, and cutting the okra in threes.
If you have never cooked or eaten okra before, as was the case for me, do not be surprised when you cut into this vegetable. It has a sticky, slimy feel to the inside where the seeds are. I suppose that is what helps it to thicken the gumbo.
Although the recipe calls for hot sausage, I actually used sweet Italian. It was my preference, but a true gumbo has a bite to it that gets a boost from the hot sausage.
Usually green bell peppers are used, however, I find the taste rather bitter. I substituted a red bell pepper and enjoyed that much more.
Ingredients for Gumbo
- 1 lb. Italian Sausage, Hot
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 C all-purpose flour
- 1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
- 4 Cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 Cup tomatoes, chopped
- 1 Cup fresh okra, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 lb. shrimp-shelled and deveined, cooked or uncooked
- 1 C. rice
Visual Steps for GumboClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to make Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
- Heat vegetable oil in a 6 quart Dutch oven on medium-high until hot. Add sausage and cook for 8 minutes or until well browned, turning frequently. Remove the sausages to a plate to cool for about 10 minutes.
- Add the bell pepper, onions, celery, chopped garlic, and cayenne to the drippings. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and cook on medium high for about 2-3 minutes or until softened. Remove the vegetable mixture into a bowl and set aside.
- Add the flour into the drippings in the pot and stir until well blended. Cook 4-5 minutes until the flour mixture, (roux), is deep brown, stirring constantly.
- Add the chicken stock and stir until blended. Return the cooked vegetables to the pot, along with the tomatoes, okra, bay leaf, thyme, and paprika.
- Cut the sausages diagonally in 2-3 pieces and return to the pot. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- While Gumbo is simmering, cook the rice according to package directions.
- After 30 minutes add the shrimp and, if uncooked, cook for about 3 minutes or until they turn opaque.
- Add the parsley and give the pot a couple of stirs. Ready to serve!
- Serve with rice and a loaf of crusty French or Italian bread.
- Bring out the Hot Sauce for those who enjoy it extra spicy.