If you’re not from or haven’t been to the Louisiana in the Southeastern United States, you may not be familiar with the unique spiciness of Cajun food. With winter upon us, here’s a delicious, spicy, protein-filled Cajun stew: gumbo.
Okra is the unique ingredient here. It’s a ubiquitous vegetable where I’m originally from (although Georgians love okra best when it’s fried). If fresh okra is difficult for you to obtain for this, frozen will work just fine. If you can’t find it at all, the dry roux will thicken the stew enough; you’ll just be missing out on okra’s delicious texture.
This recipe does take about 2 hours from start to finish. Not much of the time is active, and most of it is taken in making the dry roux that will thicken the soup. I recommend getting the dry roux in the oven first, then prepping the remaining ingredients of the soup. I also don’t thaw the shrimp at all; putting them straight into the pot frozen with the heat on low cooks them slowly and nicely so they don’t come out overdone.
The fish sauce called for can be found in Asian markets (or the Asian section of a grocery store). It is necessary; you’ll find the soup noticeably blander without it.
Gumbo (Serves 6-8)
In general, frozen vegetables will be ok in here.
- Dutch oven (6-8 qt.)
- 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. cooking fat (I use ghee or bacon grease here. Don’t substitute olive oil; the smoke point is too low.)
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 chopped celery rib (I like to add more.)
- 5 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes, drained
- 4 c. chicken broth
- 1/4 c. fish sauce
- 2 lbs. chicken thighs (Here you can use bone-in or boneless. If using bone-in, remove the skin.)
- 2 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (medium to large shrimp. Any size except the really tiny or really big ones are good here.)
- 8 oz. andouille sausage, sliced thin (Do not substitute other kinds of sausage here. It’s better to leave this out than make a substitution.)
- 6 oz. okra cut into 1 in. pieces
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat to 350F.
- Toast 3/4 c. flour in the Dutch oven on the stovetop until it’s just beginning to brown. Don’t add any oil when you do this.
- Turn off the heat and whisk in your cooking fat until you get a smooth, thick paste of flour and oil. Cover the Dutch oven, transfer to the oven and cook about 45 minutes. The flour should be a deep brown and smell like it’s heavily toasted. this is your dry roux that will thicken the soup.
- Transfer the Dutch oven to the stovetop, turn off the oven, and whisk the roux to combine.
- Stir in the onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes. The veggies should be softened.
- Stir in garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, only a minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until dry. This will only take 30 seconds to a minute.
- Slowly whisk in the fish sauce and chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom and smoothing any lumps of flour you find.
- Add the chicken to the pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the chicken registers 175F, 30-40 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a large plate and shred into bite-sized pieces using two forks. Return to the pot, discarding any bones.
- Stir in the shrimp, andouille sausage, and okra. Simmer until the shrimp is pink and opaque, about 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with cornbread.
You can use either chicken thighs or breasts in this recipe. I think the dark meat of chicken thighs is best in here; chicken breast can get a bit dry when simmered too long. Boneless thighs are fine if you can’t find bone-in, but you’ll get some extra tasty collagen with the bone-in thighs.
I also like to add a tablespoon of dried oregano in with the thyme, but this is optional and to the user’s taste.
Do not skip the flour. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat cooked together that thickens a sauce or soup. You will have a very watery gumbo without this.