In this episode of Around the World in 80 Dishes, you'll learn about some of the most important ingredients and techniques in Cajun and Creole cooking. (For an in-depth exploration of the cuisines, including additional recipes, a glossary of ingredients, and a timeline of events, see Taste of America: Cajun and Creole.) Our thick gumbo filled with spicy andouille sausage, shrimp, and okra is the type of hearty stew you'll find simmering in pots all over New Orleans and the Southern parishes (counties) of Louisiana .
In this how-to video Chef Bruce Mattel, of The Culinary Institute of America, kicks things off by demonstrating how to make a Louisiana-style roux, which is used to thicken and add a rich, nutty flavor to soups and stews. A classical French roux is made with flour and butter, but this one contains vegetable oil, which has a higher scorching point than butter, so it can be cooked until it's dark brown. Be sure to stir your roux constantly so it doesn't burn.
The dish also includes the "holy trinity" of Cajun and Creole cuisine-bell peppers, onions, and celery-and gets a spicy kick from cayenne powder.
This gumbo uses two of the typical thickeners in Cajun and Creole cuisine: okra and filé powder, which is made from ground sassafras leaves. The filé can be stirred in at the end of cooking (avoid overheating it, or the gumbo can get stringy and goopy) or passed at the table and added to taste.
Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
Epicurious | January 2009
by Chef Bruce Mattel, The Culinary Institute of America
Yield: Makes 4 (main-course) servings, about 2 quarts
Much of gumbo's complex richness comes from the very dark roux (a cooked mixture of flour and, in this case, oil) that thickens the soup. The longer the roux cooks, the darker and more flavorful it-and the finished dish-will become. This recipe calls for cooking the roux for about 15 minutes, but for an even stronger flavor, it can be cooked for up to 30 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Filé powder, an iconic ingredient in Cajun and Creole cooking, is made from ground sassafras leaves. It's available in the baking aisle of some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores. It should be added to each individual portion just before serving, or the gumbo will become stringy.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 small cup onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small green bell pepper, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/4 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups cooked white rice
- Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
- About 2 teaspoons filé powder
In 4-quart heavy stock pot over moderately high heat, heat oil. Reduce heat to moderately low and whisk in flour. Cook, stirring frequently with wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, until mixture becomes dark brown and has intensely nutty aroma, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in onion, pepper, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock. Raise heat to moderate and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add bay leaves, shrimp, sausage, and okra and simmer, uncovered, until okra is tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and stir in salt, cayenne, and black pepper.
Divide rice among 4 large bowls. Ladle gumbo over, and serve with hot sauce and filé powder for sprinkling on top.
Text by Megan O. Steintrager, illustrations by Matthew Brennan, photo by CIA/Keith Ferris
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- See our complete guide to Cajun and Creole cuisine, including a glossary of ingredients, timeline, and recipes for iconic dishes