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Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo New Orleans Style

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Two years ago, I received one of the greatest gifts ever from my family. Yes, I turned 60 and my family surprised me with a trip to Nashville, Tennessee. It was one of those places I have always wanted to visit. Both of my girls planned the entire trip, with a new adventure every day. It was definitely something I will always treasure, not just the places we saw but the time we spent together. That started me thinking about all the other things and places I would like to experience in my life. 

One of the places on my bucket list is New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s on my list of future adventures. It’s already February; this year March 5 will conclude the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, so I’m going to make some of my own Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo. Then I’ll sit down with a big bowl and pretend I’m somewhere in the French Quarter at a restaurant right in the middle of all the fun. One of my recipes that’s a traditional New Orleans dish is a gumbo served over white rice. Shrimp and sausage are my favorite ingredients for gumbo, and the flavors are amazing. This recipe starts with a roux that takes about 15 minutes to get the just-right color for gumbo.  

Did you know that there are many different stages of roux? All use the same ingredients, but the trick is in the timing of the cooking. I never make roux in anything other than a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. To me, it adds to the flavor, and when you’re making a roux it needs your undivided attention so you don’t burn it. If you use a stock pot or other thin-bottom pan, it will get hot fast and burn the roux. Before you start your roux, do all your food prep in advance and have it set aside before you start the process. I can’t state it enough; it will take your undivided attention.

Let’s Talk Roux!
A blond roux is the basic type of roux; it’s the roux of choice fo most people. The roux is nice and light and usually requires just a quick 30 seconds to one minute of browning the flour and oil. This process cooks the flour so that whatever you’re adding it to doesn’t taste like raw flour. As you add time to the cooking of the roux, it gets darker in color. A five-minute roux looks a little deeper than the blond roux, but we need to keep going for this pot of gumbo. Keep in mind, as we cook the roux, that it’s losing its thickening power, so the darker the roux, the less it will thicken your gumbo. Why continue to cook the roux? Flavor. When you reach 10 to 15 minutes, the roux smells like browned butter; it will be a caramel color and will smell nutty. This is what you want, and now you can start building your gumbo.

Roux Ingredients
½ cup high-heat oil, canola, corn or vegetable
½ cup all-purpose flour

Gumbo Ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (red, green, yellow and orange)
4 stalks celery, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
½ lb. andouille sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne (omit for mild)
2 tablespoons tabasco sauce
4 cups chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes and juice (I use a quart of my homemade stewed tomatoes)
2 lbs. raw shrimp, cleaned
Sliced scallions or parsley
White rice, for serving

In a large cast iron Dutch oven, heat oil on medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour until combined and smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon and continuously stir for 10 to 15 minutes or until the roux darkens to just past a deep caramel color. Do not let the roux burn. If you smell it burning, you will need to throw it out, clean the pot and start over.

Once the roux reaches the perfect color, stir in the onions, bell peppers, garlic and celery and continue to cook, stirring as needed so the vegetables don’t stick. Cook until vegetables become soft. Add the Cajun seasoning, tabasco sauce, cayenne, chicken broth and stewed tomatoes. Bring to a high simmer before lowering the heat to medium-low. Add bay leaves and cover, turning down to medium-low heat. While simmering for 20 minutes, take the sliced sausage and sear the outside of each piece; you may need to add a small amount of oil depending on the fat content in your sausage. Add the shrimp and sausage to the gumbo and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the shrimp is opaque. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve in a large, shallow bowl; place a large spoonful of your favorite white rice in the middle of the bowl and ladle a hearty helping of gumbo over the rice. Sprinkle sliced scallions on top and serve. If you don’t like scallions, you can use parsley.