Quick Seafood and Chicken Sausage Gumbo
When Paul Prudhomme’s first cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, came out, I think I made every last one of his gumbos in the span of a few weeks. To this day, his are the recipes I always refer to when I make gumbo. More often than not, however, I don’t have time to make ultratraditional, slow-cooking gumbo, so I’ve adapted my own quicker—and often lighter—versions that take a fraction of the time but still pack loads of soulful flavor. Served over rice with ice-cold beer, it’s all the excuse you need to throw a block party.
MAKES ABOUT 4 QUARTS / SERVES 10 TO 12
1⁄3 cup canola oil
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
2 onions, chopped, skins and trimmings reserved for broth
1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped, trimmings reserved for stock
1 poblano chile or 2 jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded, and diced
4 celery stalks, diced, trimmings reserved for stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound spicy chicken sausage links, cut into 3-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 1⁄2 quarts Fast and Fresh Broth (page 42)
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, with juice
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved for broth
2 cups chopped okra
1⁄2 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked through for shells
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
8 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
Steamed white or Creamed Vegetable Rice (page 216), for serving
Heat the canola oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling hot (see Know-how, page 100). To make a roux, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly with a long-handled whisk, until the mixture changes from light to golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, adjusting the heat if the flour starts browning too quickly.
Add the onions, bell pepper, poblano chile, celery, and butter and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the sausage and garlic and cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the bay leaves, salt, dried thyme, cayenne, and black pepper and stir to mix. Add the broth and tomatoes and their juice, stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the shrimp, okra, crab, fresh thyme, and basil and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the shrimp are just cooked and the okra is tender, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if desired. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve warm over steamed white or Creamed Vegetable Rice, garnished with thyme and basil.
Know-how: about roux
The paste of oil, butter, and flour that begins this recipe is called a roux, and it forms the base of gumbo and other stews. The key to cooking roux—which is made from approximately one part fat to one part flour—is to constantly tend the pot, stirring and adjusting the temperature as necessary to avoid burning. The length of time you cook the roux affects the color and flavor of the final dish; the longer you cook it, the darker and smokier the stew. Roux cooked for a shorter period of time are golden to reddish brown in color, resulting in blonder gumbos and stews with full-bodied, but slightly subtler, flavor. Roux that are cooked longer, until dark red to dark brown—even blackish—create gumbos and stews with a distinctive rich, deep, smoky flavor. Oil or butter (or a combination of the two) may be used, but butter is better suited to lighter roux than darker roux, as it tends to burn more readily than oil.
SARA’S SWAPS This seafood gumbo can be easily adapted depending on what’s in season or what your fishmonger has in good supply. Some of my favorite additions include soft-shell crabs, oysters, and crawfish. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time as necessary for any variations in seafood. You can also experiment with different kinds of meat, from smoked tasso ham to sausages of all kinds, including boudin, andouille, chorizo, linguiça, and kielbasa.
Chew on This: gumbo and potato salad: Although gumbo is most often served on a bed of white rice, there is a little-known Creole tradition of serving it over a bed of good, old-fashioned potato salad. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try by serving this gumbo over Creamy Potato Salad (page 266).