Gumbo is a stew of Louisiana origin, dating back as far as the 18th century. As with Jambalaya, there are two popular versions of gumbo, Creole and Cajun; generally, the former includes tomatoes, while the latter omits them. It can be made with all sorts of meats, from chicken, to rabbit, to nutria, to oysters; today, we’re going to make one with shrimp and andouille sausage.
There are several ways to prepare gumbo, many of them influenced by how you thicken the stew. Most methods today include a French-inspired flour roux, while others use okra or filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) – or combination – as a thickener. I’ve found that mochiko (sweet rice flour) makes the best gluten-free roux for gumbo, with plain white rice flour coming in second – but on their own, they’re not quite enough to thicken the gumbo to what I’d like (I tried simply adding more flour, but it overtook the dish’s texture and flavor). In the end, a combination of rice flour roux and okra worked best, as the roux dampened okra’s sliminess, and adding a bit of optional gumbo filé powder at the end gave the stew a perfect earthiness, befitting a warm Southern kitchen.
Gumbo is often characterized by its dark roux, made by stirring the roux over an open flame for up to an hour, right until it’s at the threshold of being burnt. I’ve found that a rice flour roux tends to burn too quickly when compared to a traditional wheat flour roux, so my solution is pretty simple: roast the flour in the oven to a golden brown before turning it into a roux. This also gives you some time to multitask, and simmer up a quick shellfish broth using shrimp shells and clam juice, while the flour browns.
The origin of the word “gumbo” is a bit of a mystery. It’s commonly thought that it is either derived from the Choctaw word for filé powder (kombo), since the spice came from similar Native stews from the region, or the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) – as the vegetable was introduced to the area via the West African slave trade. Regardless of its origin, gumbo is a perfect example of the cultural melting pot that eventually came to exemplify Louisiana cuisine, with its French, Native, and African influences.
Finally, I would like to note that this isn’t a weeknight-friendly meal (unless, of course, you have a weeknight off, or you’re unemployed). But that’s the beauty of gumbo – when you spend a couple hours pouring yourself into a cooking project, a bit of your soul joins the dish.
Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet)
3/4 cup mochiko rice flour or white rice flour
1 lb shell-on shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells retained
1 cup (8oz) clam juice
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup ghee
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 lb okra, cut into 1/2″ rounds
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or 1/4 tsp Tabasco (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb andouille sausage
1/2 tsp gumbo filé powder (optional, see note below)
1. Pour the mochiko flour into a baking tray and roast at 350F until golden brown, about 35 minutes, turning halfway through. As the flour roasts, combine the shrimp shells, clam juice, and chicken broth in a stockpot; simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat, then strain out and discard the shells; set aside.
2. Rinse the stockpot, then return to the stove. Add the ghee and warm over medium heat. Add the rice flour and stir to combine; toast until it is a rich brown color, about 20 minutes total, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
3. Add the celery, onion, and bell pepper and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and broth, then stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to med/low. Simmer until the flavors combine, about 1 hour, stirring often.
4. Stir in the carrot, okra, chili powder, paprika, salt, thyme, pepper, and cayenne or hot sauce. Simmer until the carrot is tender, about 15 minutes, then taste and add salt if needed.
5. While the vegetables are simmering, prepare the sausage. In a small skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat, then add the sausage slices. Brown the sausage on each side, about 3 minutes per side, then add to the gumbo. Once the vegetables are tender, add the shrimp to the gumbo and simmer until pink and curling, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the gumbo filé, and serve as-is or over white rice.
** Gumbo filé powder is sometimes difficult to find outside of the South. You can purchase it online, or feel free to omit it – the gumbo will still be delicious!
** If you don’t particularly like the taste of okra (many folks don’t), try adding them with the tomatoes during step #3; a nice long simmer will often make them more palatable.
** For a grain-free/Paleo version, use 1/2 cup coconut flour in place of the rice flour, and skip the roasting portion of step #1.