Best. Gumbo. Ever.
Apr. 23, 2012 4:48 pm
Updated: Dec. 11, 2012 8:55 pm
For years, I've been working on Gumbo, refining my ingredients and techniques as I learn and gain experience. I've been cooking for at least 35 years, but I learn more every day.
I make good Gumbo. I think that I do, and everyone who tries my gumbo tells me the same. But it's never been what I consider jaw-droppingly great. Until now.
Over the years, I've tried a variety of recipes for gumbo from many sites and books and revised them to fit my (and now our since I've married) tastes. There are some do's and do not's for me that make or break the recipe. This is for a sausage and shrimp
gumbo, my favorite.
The do's for my perfect pot:
DO use fresh okra. Frozen will do in a pinch, but nothing compares to using the fresh stuff.
DO saute the okra for a few minutes to reduce the "slime" factor.
DO cook the roux until it is at LEAST the color or peanut butter. Milk chocolate is even better.
DO use raw shrimp, not pre-cooked and frozen or even worse, canned (frozen is fine, but please make it US only--you will understand why I say this if you try them side by side).
DO use fresh garlic.
DO use andioulle if you can find it. No other sausage will give you that flavor.
DO use a generous hand with spices, especially cayenne. This is GUMBO, folks, and it's supposed to bring the heat on!
DO add tomatoes. They bring umami to the dish. Canned is fine, and fire-roasted is especially nice.
DO saute your sausage to brown. Just trust me on this one. You won't regret it.
The do not's that break the dish:
DO NOT use celery. I know, it's part of the holy trinity in Cajun cooking. Call me Pagan, if you want, but I cannot abide the stuff, and I will not use it. Ever.
DO NOT add crab. I really like crab. But not in Gumbo; it completely takes over the dish for me.
DO NOT add chicken. Again, I love chicken. But the combination of shrimp and sausage is magic.
DO NOT add clam broth. It's a personal thing. I like this stuff in Clam Chowder and other applications, but Gumbo is just not the place to use it for me.
DO NOT skip the roux. It's not Gumbo without it. It's a pain, yes (literally, sometimes--that stuff is HOT!), but it's key to the flavor.
DO NOT skimp on onions and peppers. You want a generous amount. Green is best in this for me, but red or yellow work, too.
DO NOT omit the red pepper. Even if you are afraid of spice, please...add the red pepper!
DO NOT cook your rice in the Gumbo pot. You will have Jambalaya. Which is great, but really not what we're here for, right?
Bearing in mind the above rules I follow, I have created the Best Gumbo Ever for my family. It's always seemed to be missing something, and I could never figure it out. Well, I made the Gumbo last night leaving out the shrimp because I didn't want it to overcook
and figured I'd throw it in tonight when I reheated. On a whim, I decided to coat the shrimp with Cajun seasoning and hot smoked paprika and grill them. OH MY GOSH. THIS is what I've been missing. THIS is the Gumbo of my dreams. The shrimp are deeply
flavored and and smoky and served on top of the Gumbo, it's a swoon-worthy bowl of goodness.
So, now that I have my Gumbo perfected, tell me how you make yours perfect.