Eilene is having friends over, so I needed something to feed hungry 20-somethings. I have made versions of both this dish and jambalaya before, but I wanted one that was simple enough for a weekday meal. The basic difference between a gumbo and jambalaya is whether you pour the sauce over the rice or cook the rice in the sauce.
Note: While many gumbos use okra or file as a thickener, they are not defining ingredients.
Louisiana food generally falls into two main cuisines Creole and Cajun, which roughly corresponds to city and country. The Creole cuisine was influenced by close contact with the African food traditions of the slaves and easy access to imported foods. Cajun cuisine was influenced by the Native Americans and limited access to outside imports.
Both cuisines are primarily French and use the “holy trinity,” a sofrito of onions, green bell peppers and celery. Common Louisiana ingredients—such as Filé, okra, or roux—may be more common in one cuisine or the other, but these are not exclusive. The primary difference between a Creole and Cajun dish is tomatoes—if you add tomatoes to the dish it is Creole.
While a “proper” gumbo should be simmered for at least three hours, I wanted something that took less time—but still had the flavor of the original. The last time I made jambalaya, I found that the order of cooking can make a large difference in taste of the final dish. For this recipe, I have used some non-traditional techniques to produce a fast and easy gumbo.
Karl’s Creole Gumbo II
¼+ cup Karl’s Creole Spice Blend (see note step 1 below)
½+ Tbs. sweet paprika
½+ tsp. garlic powder
½+ tsp. onion powder
½+ tsp. oregano, dried
½+ tsp. sweet basil, dried
½+ tsp. thyme leaves, dried
½+ tsp. Kosher salt
¼+ tsp. black pepper
¼+ tsp. white pepper
¼+ tsp. celery seed
¼+ tsp. cayenne
3 chicken thighs, boneless cut into small pieces (about 1 lb.)
1 cup Andouille (about 2 sausages)
1 lb. raw shrimp
5 Tbs. butter, separate uses
4 Tbs. AP flour
2 cup yellow onion, chopped/diced
1 cup celery, chopped/diced
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped/diced
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped/diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 can (13.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz.) low sodium chicken broth
1 cup Jasmine rice, uncooked
1. Put all of the herbs and spices in a small bowl, stir them together, and reserve.
Tip: When I made this dish before I used my original spice recipe. I used only a quarter cup of the spice blend and I had leftover seasoning sitting on my shelf for months. I decided to blend just the amount of seasoning I needed. For all of the measurements above, I cut the original amounts in half and then used a slightly heaping measure for each.
Note: I do not like too much heat. Feel free to use more cayenne.
2. Cut the chicken into pieces and place them in a third bowl.
Tip: Normally I would cut the chicken into one inch pieces, but for Eilene I I made the pieces much smaller—about ⅜ of an inch dice.
3. Sprinkle half of the Creole spice over the chicken and mix it in thoroughly.
Tip: Cover the chicken with plastic wrap, and refrigerate to marinate for at least 20 minutes.
4. Slice the Andouille sausage into rings and place them in a prep bowl.
Tip: Before you slice the sausage make a score down its length to break the casing. If the casing is intact, the slices will poof-up into little hats as the casing shrinks during frying.
Note: Daughter Eilene is still on a soft food diet. For the sausage, I quartered it length-wise and sliced the sausage finely. I also diced the chicken and vegetables into smaller pieces than I would normally.
5. Peel the shrimp and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Tip: Place them in a separate prep bowl, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
6. Put three tablespoons of butter in a bowl and add four tablespoons of flour.
Tip: Mash the flour and butter together into a paste—this is called a beurre manié.
Note: You will eventually be using this paste to make your roux. Premixing the butter and flour does two things: 1) It allows the butter and flour to bind together; and 2) makes it easier to add the paste to the pan—to quickly and evenly melt into the roux.
7. Prep your “holy trinity,” put them all in the same prep bowl, and reserve.
Tip: This is a Creole cuisine sofrito of onions, green bell peppers and celery—the usual ration for these ingredients is 2:1:1.
8. Put the Andouille pieces into a medium sized Dutch oven over a medium high heat.
Tip: Do not add any butter or oil. The sausage will quickly release enough fat to grease the pan.
9. Brown the sausage and then transfer them to a bowl.
Tip: You may use the original prep bowl.
10. Without cleaning the Dutch oven, lay the shrimp in a single layer—still over medium high heat.
Tip: The shrimp will pick up some of the flavor of the Andouille.
11. Sear the shrimp for 2-3 minutes and then flip them over.
Tip: You want a good sear on both sides of the shrimp, but do not over cook them.
Note: It is OK, at this point, if the shrimp are still raw in the center. They will finish cooking when they are returned to the pot.
12. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.
Tip: You may use the original prep bowl.
Note: Rinse and wipe the bowl if using the prep bowl.
13. Without cleaning the Dutch oven, melt one tablespoon of butter, and add the chicken.
Tip: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and form the meat into a large patty. This is an American’s Test Kitchen trick that I have found works for any meat that is ground/broken into small pieces. By cooking the meat in a single patty, you can get the flavor of the Maillard reaction without drying out most of your meat.
14. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side.
15. Break the patty up and transfer the chicken to the bowl with the sausage.
Tip: You will be returning the sausage and chicken back to the pot later at the same time.
Note: You will be adding the shrimp back to the pot at the last minute.
16. Without cleaning the Dutch oven, melt one tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven and add the onions, celery, peppers, and salt.
Tip: If you wish, you may use all green bell peppers.
Note: The salt draws out the moisture from the vegetables and helps them to brown and soften more quickly.
17. Sauté the vegetables for 6-8 minutes, until they are starting to pick up some color.
Tip: Use the moisture released by the vegetables to deglaze the pot.
Note: Do not sauté the vegetables so long that you start developing a vegetables fond on the bottom of the pot. You will next be creating a roux and—if there is too much fond—it may scorch and create an unpleasant burnt taste.
18. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and reduce the temperature under the pot to medium low.
Tip: You may use the original vegetable prep bowl.
19. Without cleaning the Dutch oven, add the beurre manié—the flour and butter mixture—to the pot.
20. Cook the roux for 5-45 minutes.
Tip: Be sure to keep the roux moving so that it does not burn. The darker the roux the more flavor, but the greater risk of scorching. Personally, I rarely spend more than 10 minutes cooking my roux.
Note: For many Creole/Cajun dishes the roux may be a primary flavor component. The longer you cook your roux the more the Maillard reaction flavors develop. Depending on your own personal tastes and patience, you may cook the roux to white (5 minutes), blond (15) peanut-butter (30), brown (40).
21. Add the garlic and the tomato paste to the roux.
22. Sauté the garlic and tomato paste in the roux for 1-2 minutes.
Tip: Stir constantly until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has darkened.
Note: The Maillard reaction strikes again.
23. Sprinkle the remaining spice blend over the roux and cook the spices for 30 seconds.
Tip: Turn the fan on and hold your breath while “blooming” the spice. It can be an intense experience to get a lung full of the volatiles coming out of the pot.
Note: The Maillard reaction again.
24. Stir in the can of tomatoes with all of the juices.
Tip: Stir constantly and vigorously, so that the roux blends into the sauce without lumping up.
25. Simmer the tomatoes for 5-6 minutes.
26. Add the “holy trinity” and ¾ of the can of chicken broth to the pot.
Tip: Use the broth to rinse out the prep bowl.
Note: Save some of the broth to rinse out the meat and shrimp bowls.
27. Simmer the gumbo for 20-40 minutes.
Tip: This is a good time to start cooking your rice. If you do not have a rice steamer, you may use a pot to cook your rice. However if you make rice more than twice a month it is really worth the connivance—set it and forget it. You may buy a small one for less than $20.
Note: Again how long you simmer the gumbo is a matter of personal taste, patience, and hunger. This simmer is to break down the vegetables into the sauce. By starting with finely diced vegetables, I cut down the time necessary to break down most of the vegetables. Also, you do not want to add the meat at the beginning of this simmer, because it would cook the meat into dried out bits.
28. Stir the sausage and chicken into the gumbo and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Tip: Use half of the remaining broth to rinse out the bowl.
29. Add the shrimp to the gumbo and simmer for a final 2-3 minutes.
Tip: Use the last of the broth to rinse put the bowl.
Note: You want your shrimp to be tender and just cooked through, not tough and rubbery.
30. Serve the gumbo in the cooking pot with the steamed rice on the side.
Note: Diners take as much rice as they wish and pour the gumbo over it.