Gumbo should be a part of every cook’s go-to inventory of dishes that are tasty and can take advantage of a variety of ingredients. I like mine with shrimp and Andouille sausage, but there’s nothing wrong with using gator meat or crawfish tails for a more “swampy” version.
There are, however, a couple of gumbo essentials. First, there’s the roux, which is simply flour that’s been fried in oil to a consistency and color of peanut butter. And then there’s the filé powder, the ground leaves and stems of the sassafras tree. Without roux and file, gumbo isn’t a thick and rich stew. It’s just soup!
Many gumbo recipes call for lots of chopping and cutting of the vegetable trinity—bell pepper, onion and celery, as well as garlic and tomatoes. I’ve found a shortcut involving store-bought “sofrito” tomato cooking base that shortens prep time and doesn’t negatively affect the end product. Also, all gumbo recipes call for rice at serving time, but be sure to use loose-grained parboiled rice, as regular long-grained rice grains are just too sticky to be authentic. FS
As Simple As Gumbo Can Get
1⁄2 cup canola or peanut oil
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
12-ounce jar Goya Sofrito tomato cooking base
1 quart Swanson seafood stock
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 pound Andouille sausage, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp. Zatarain’s Gumbo Filé Powder
4-6 cups cooked Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice (1 cup per serving)
In a heavy Dutch oven (your grandma’s black iron frying pan is best!), over medium-high heat, whisk the flour and oil together and cook until it looks like peanut butter. DO NOT walk away from this step, whisk continuously. Burned roux is a bad thing! Then, reduce heat to “low” and immediately stir in the sofrito, seafood stock, spices and sausage. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Rice takes about 20 minutes to cook, so time that part of the process to end when you want to serve your gumbo. When you start the rice (1 part rice to 2 parts salted water), add the shrimp to the gumbo and increase the heat to medium. Then, with about 10 minutes to go on the rice, remove the gumbo from the heat, stir in the fifilé powder and allow everything to rest until you serve in individual bowls over rice.
For an appropriate beverage to serve with your gumbo, try an American Pale Ale from your favorite local craft brewery. Serves 4-6.
First published Florida Sportsman June 2018