Julia’s Shrimp Gumbo

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I like my gumbo heavy on shrimp and green onions, skipping the chicken and Andouille sausage common to many recipes. The meat trio is great if you’re wanting a lot of meat, but if you want more of a stew or are a big seafood lover like me, I recommend just shrimp and lots of vegetables, then plenty of rice to soak up that spicy broth.

Gumbo is a dish I make regularly. I first encountered it when I made it myself, according to a recipe I found in a magazine and  have since adjusted based on my experience of what works. One of the most important (and most difficult) aspects of gumbo to get right is the roux, which is mixture of flour, oil, and butter heated up to form a crispy coating around the vegetables. It requires patience and a good eye. The best roux, in my experience, needs at least as much butter as oil (and their combined measurement should equal that of the flour, one the few things I ever measure in cooking), it must be stirred constantly to prevent the flour from burning, and should be about the color of peanut butter. After that, the next part that I find to be important is the salt level. If you use sausage, your gumbo is very likely to become salty, depending on what broth you use. I use a lower sodium broth and no sausage, so I always need to add more salt, but if you use sausage and a saltier broth you might have the opposite problem.  Gumbo seems better when it’s on the salty side, so taste carefully before you serve it.

One more the thing: the garnish. Lots of green onions and a little celery leaf. Some people will say put hot sauce and more butter on it; I don’t prefer it that way. There’s also the question of whether to serve it over rice or just as a stew, and whether or not to have cornbread as a side. I highly recommend the rice; it soaks up some of the broth and gives the dish more sustenance for those of us who need it. As for the cornbread, I don’t bother with it when I make gumbo at home, but I’ve had it served along gumbo at restaurants and enjoyed the pairing just fine. Gumbo is one of those dishes that varies a lot depending on the cook.

My version of gumbo:

  • White onion, chopped
  • Green bell pepper, chopped
  • Celery, chopped
  • Garlic, finely chopped
  • equal parts flour to canola oil and butter
  • Cayenne
  • Paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bay leaf
  • Chicken broth
  • Shrimp (gulf is best; any kind will be adequate)
  • White rice
  • Fresh green onions, sliced
  • Celery leaves, chopped (I tried adding them tonight and liked the extra nutty bitter flavor they added, but it’s not a standard gumbo ingredient)

 

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