There are certain dishes that I think a lot of people shy away from for a week night meal because they think they take a long time to make. Take chili for instance; I can have a pot of chili on the table in less than one hour from the time I start. Gumbo is another great example. It also can be ready in less than an hour.
What I like about gumbo is that you can easily make it your own. I've tried it lots of ways. With okra, without. With fish, with chicken. Without fish, without chicken. I guess you get the idea. What I'm posting today is my favorite version of this dish. I like it best with shrimp and sausage (usually kielbasa since I have it on hand). However, if you use kielbasa, I strongly recommend that you slice, boil, and drain the kielbasa before adding it to the gumbo to reduce its fattiness. There's nothing less appealing than a bunch of fat floating on top of an otherwise perfect gumbo.
So the special thing about gumbo is the roux. A roux is simply a mixture of flour and fat. Unlike flour and water, flour and fat are good friends and like to mix it up together. Put the two together in a hot pan and watch magic happen. That dull, lifeless, white paste will turn into a sassy brunette. Don't turn the heat too high and don't walk away. You'll rue the day you walk away from your roux (sorry... I just couldn't resist!). Keep it moving and watch the heat. You want it to turn a lovely copper color, not burn.
After your roux has turned this wonderful shade, add the vegetables. Saute, stirring regularly, over medium heat for about five minutes. Slowly add the hot chicken stock, stirring while you do so. Throw in the seasonings, sausage, bay, and tomato paste. Cook for 20 minutes. Right before serving, add the peeled and cleaned shrimp. They cook in less than 3 minutes. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve over rice.
Yield: 3-4 servings
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
3 cups hot chicken stock
1 TBS Cajun seasoning
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
2 TBS tomato paste
salt to taste
1 lb sliced, boiled, and drained kielbasa
1 lb peeled and cleaned shrimp
In a medium sized dutch oven or stock pot, mix the flour and oil over medium to medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture turns a copper color. Adjust heat as necessary.
Add the vegetables to the roux and cook, stirring periodically, about five minutes. Add the chicken stock slowly, stirring all the while. Add the remaining ingredients except for the shrimp. Stir to mix and simmer for twenty minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until they are pink and cooked through, about three minutes. Serve over rice.