Ella has been obsessed with the Princess and the Frog for a while now, so I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to introduce her to the delights of New Orleans cuisine.
This easy healthy recipe for sausage and shrimp gumbo takes the best of both creole and cajun versions and combines to make a delicious and flavourful meal with plenty of leftovers.
While researching the rich history of gumbo, Ella and I noticed some variations between traditional cajun versus traditional creole versions:
Cajun gumbo starts with a dark brown roux (mixture of fat and flour) that involves a careful watch and constant stirring to avoid scorching. It contains no tomatoes, and often packs a bit more heat, although garlic and thyme are common. It uses andouille sausage, pork sausages preserved using a mixture of salt and smoke.
Creole gumbo often has a much lighter (and quicker) roux, made with butter not oil, and often uses tomatoes. They have a thick and rich sauce, and use a variety of herbs and spices rather than heat-packing spices and sauces. Pork is not as heavy a focus.
Both versions start with a fat and flour roux, rely on okra for it’s thickening properties (a tastier alternative to corn starch), involve low and slow cooking, and often use shrimp in addition to another meat. They also both use the “holy trinity” of celery, onions, and bell peppers as a base.
Looking at the similarities and differences, we really couldn’t decide which tradition to follow, so we picked what appealed to us from both and created a gumbo that successfully marries the two traditions and packs some major flavour.
The flavour of this dish is hard-won, with careful cooking of the roux and layers of flavour added to the pot over time. Fresh, quality ingredients and fresh herbs and spices will make all of the difference. (You can used dried herbs, just make sure they still have flavour!)
We incorporated lots of meat and vegetables into our dish so that we would have leftovers for a few days – and just like with most one pot meals or soups, the taste of this dish only improves over a day or two.
(Ok, this recipe technically involves two pots, but most of the action is happening in just one of them.)
- 20-25 large shrimp (uncooked and with shells, preferably)
- 6 medium-size andouille sausage, sliced
- Olive or coconut oil
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 5 Tablespoons flour of choice
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large sweet peppers, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 4 bay leaves
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
- 8 medium okra, chopped
- 1-16oz can tomatoes
- For serving:
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Lemon juice or wedges
- Thyme sprigs
- Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in your main stock pot or dutch oven, and in the pot you will be making the broth in.
- To the main pot, add your sausages and cook until done (I like to get them slightly charred - at least well browned). Once they are done cooking, remove from the pot and set aside.
- In the pot you will be making your broth in, add the shrimp shells (but not the shrimp), cooking for about 5 minutes until pink. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
- Reduce the heat of the pot you just cooked the sausages in, and add your flour to the remaining oil. Stir constantly, adding a bit more oil if you need the roux to loosen up a bit. You're looking for a thin dough-like texture, and you want to keep cooking it slowly until it reaches a dark colour. (Dark like molasses, preferably.)
- Once your roux reaches the right colour, add a tablespoon more of olive oil, along with the onions, peppers, and celery.
- Cook 5 minutes before adding the bay leaves, thyme, and garlic.
- Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the reminaing seasonings, hot sauce, and okra. Cook 1 minute while you strain the broth.
- Strain the broth to remove the shrimp shells and add just the broth to the main pot with all of those veggies. Add the tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes.
- Add the sausage and shrimp and cook until the shrimp is a bright pink colour. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and hot sauce and remove the bay and thyme sprigs.
- Serve hot.
You can serve this without any grains (and use a gluten-free flour for the roux) if you’d like to keep it paleo, but we tend to serve ours over brown rice. You can also use grits, quinoa, or couscous – or just eat it plain.
Whatever you do, eat it hot with lemon wedges, extra seasoning, and hot sauce on the side when you’re in the mood for some great southern comfort food!