November 11, 2002
Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

Two years ago, I visited New Orleans for the first time. Being adventurous, I tried a great variety of the region's traditional food (gumbo, jambalaya, po' boys, beignets) and found it much to my liking. A few days ago, when I saw the fresh okra in the vegetable store, I knew I had to get it. I was thinking of making a jambalaya, but upon preliminary investigation, I found that it was only gumbo that contained okra (silly Yankee). That discovery discouraged me for a while, but today was a suitably rainy day so I decided to go for the gumbo. Nadia had used a David Rosengarten recipe once before so I knew his shrimp and andouille gumbo with oysters would be tasty. The other time Nadia made this recipe she didn't have any oysters on hand so I felt comfortable leaving them out this time as well.

The recipe starts off with making a stock from the shells of the shrimp. The shells are cooked in a bit of oil, then onion, celery, herbs and water are added. The stock cooks for about half an hour and is then strained. One thing that I thought was missing from both the recipe for the stock as well as the gumbo was any mention of salt. Perhaps Rosengarten assumes that the sausage, shrimp, and oysters will add enough salt, but I found that not to be the case at all. I know I omitted the oysters, but I can't imagine it would have made a significant difference. To be safe though, I left off adding my own seasoning until close to the end to see how things turned out on their own.

The gumbo itself starts with one and a half cups of roux (flour + fat = thickening agent) that is cooked until it reaches a very dark brown color. The recipes claims that the roux will darken in about twenty minutes of cooking. However, I found that my roux was very dark, almost to the point of burning, after only five minutes. Luckily, I had already prepared the vegetables that needed to go into the pot next (mise en place saves the day).

The gumbo that I ended up with was nice and thick thanks to both the roux and the gummy insides of the okra. Perhaps I had heat on too high, but I found the vegetables had lost all of their shape and turned mushy by the end of the cooking. I wanted at least some of the vegetables to not have turned into mush. The recipe tries to achieve this by adding some of the okra near the end but I might hold back more veggies, maybe the jalapeņos, next time. Regardless of its shortcomings, this gumbo was authentic enough to satisfy my craving for New Orleans cooking. Now If only I could cook the perfect beignet.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
(adapted from David Rosengarten)

3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 large jalapeņo pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups chopped celery
3-4 cups chopped okra (1/3 inch chunks)
1 tbs garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
1 cup canned whole tomatoes, chopped
6-8 cups shrimp stock (water or canned stock if you're lazy)
1 lb andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 lbs medium shrimp (20ct) peeled and deveined, shells saved for stock

In a deep heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it is just smoking. Add the flour, whisking constantly until it is incorporated. Cook the roux over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until it is a deep dark brown and has a strong nutty smell, 5-20 minutes. Stir the onions, celery, green peppers, and 3/4 of the okra into the roux and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and all spices except the salt. In a different pot, bring the stock or water to a boil. Ladle the stock, a bit at a time into the roux mixture, stirring well after each addition until it is dissolved. Bring the gumbo to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the tomatoes and sausage. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining okra and the jalapeņos and simmer for 7 minutes more. Add the shrimp and simmer until they are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste. If the gumbo is too thick, water or stock may be added to thin it to your liking. Served with rice it's kind of a gumbo-laya. This recipe makes enough for 6-8 main course servings.