The day after my first Mardi Gras, the streets were still wet from the midnight clean-up and most of the revelers were headed straight to the airport, heads heavy and hung-over. So I had the luxury of feeling like I had the city to myself. I wandered delightfully without reason and came across one of the few food stalls open. The simple sign read "Good Louisiana Gumbo".
I didn't hesitate and received a thin styrofoam bowl steaming with fresh rice and a thick, meaty stew overflowing with plump shrimp, spicy andouille sausage and chunks of tender chicken.
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After one bite, still standing in front of the stall, I must have made some sound of approval, because the kind, elderly lady behind the booth nodded at me and said, "yes, that's damn good Gumbo." Yes, ma'am, it certainly was.
There's a handful of different ways to make Gumbo, depending on whether you're making a Creole or Cajun dish. Because most of our visits to New Orleans centered around the city and not in the rural areas, we've been mostly exposed to the tomato-based Creole dishes.
So in our recipe, you'll want to start with the classic French base of celery and onion and add a good amount of crushed red tomatoes.
Add file powder, which is dried and ground sassafras leaves, and a collection of timeless spices and herbs.
Time is the major ingredient, however. Gumbo is not a dish to be rushed and not a dish to be left unattended. You gotta stir some love into it and a little bit of soul.
Next, your proteins need to be top notch as they're also going to add another layer of flavor. Be especially particular about your shrimp.
How to Buy Shrimp
- I have some more grim news for you. Don’t buy shrimp that’s already deveined and shelled, at least not for this dish. That process tends to strip the flavor a bit to create a bland shrimp. We want the shrimp to retain as much flavor from the shell to essence the broth.
- But do get them with the heads removed, because who wants to deal with that? And they make the shrimp spoil faster.
- Get your shrimp frozen. It’s a no-brainer. They’ll be fresher, and you can keep them frozen for several weeks if needed.
- Look at the color, too. Brown, black spots, yellow or anything off from the standard pink is a no go.
- Aim for medium-sized shrimp, about 20 to a pound.
- If you want to get specific about the species, we usually get a Gulf White or Gulf Pink. But most any will do.
I'm not a fan of okra, so Eddie undercooked ours a bit for a firmer texture. You can omit altogether, too.
Serve with a heaping portion of white rice and side of french bread or cornbread.
Other delectable Wanderspice Shrimp Dishes:
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- 1 pound chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 pound andouille sausage
- 1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium celery stalks, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 medium okra, sliced
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- 14 oz. tomatoes, crushed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons AP Flour
- 1 tablespoons gumbo file
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 1/2 pound white shrimp
- 2 cups long grain rice
- 1/4 cup scallions, finely sliced
- Using a large bowl add diced chicken, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Using a large skillet or saute pan over high heat, add canola oil and brown chicken on all sides, about 6 minutes.
- Add andouille sausage and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add onions, celery, garlic, okra, crushed tomatoes and hot sauce cook for 4 minutes then reduce heat to low.
- Using a small pot add butter, AP flour, and gumbo file and saute on medium heat for 1 minute.
- After 1 minutes add chicken broth and bay leaves, bring to a boil. Stir every 2 minutes.
- After 7 minutes add the shrimp, cover, shut off heat and set aside.
- Allow your Gumbo to sit for 4 minutes before serving.
- Use the remaining chicken broth and water cook 2 cups long grain rice.
- Fluff up your rice using a fork. In a bowl add rice and top with Gumbo.
- Garnish with scallions.