Location: Pinewood, Louisiana + Garland, Texas
Recipe: Seafood and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
After a time, a man gets to talking.
Maybe he confesses something. A dream. A desire. A regret.
Hours pass. He has time to reflect. On his life. Places he’s been. Things he’s seen.
There are subjects on which he’s an expert. Possesses expertise. You can see it. The way he stirs the spoon in the pot. A confidence there.
Not every man has his patience. It’s a skill hard-won. Perhaps his mother’s side? He never did say.
Then again, he left home early. Says he carries memories in his mouth now. Just went home for grandma’s birthday. Everyone knows, miles don’t equal love.
After some hours, the sky darkens. Night rushes in. The man grows tired. The hours feel like years. He’d just like a place to lay his head is all. The simple things what’s needed. Hot coffee in the morning. A piece of bread to dunk his sorrows. His requirements small. Not like his dreams. They loom large. Floating off to a distance. A black unknown.
Still, he knows there’s tomorrow. Believes it in his skin. The way he knows his history. The body, like the future, never lying.
In the morning, the man disappears. His soul turning material with the sun’s clear light. A shirt. A tie. Now a pair of pants.
Leave no trace, he learned as a boy, hunting in a Texas wood (pointing the gun away from the doe, as she sprang through the air unbidden, though he’s never spoke of the transgression).
Yes, it’s true what they say. Or what I imagined in a dream that followed: You can learn a lot about a man, by the way he makes gumbo.
Seafood and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 1/2 hours
1 cup vegetable oil – 236 ml
1 cup flour – 120 grams
64 ounces chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth or, as we did, half chicken, half vegetable) – 1892 ml
3 ounces chopped okra (10 whole) – 87 grams
4 ounces chopped onion – 115 grams
5 ounces celery (2 stalks) – 140 grams
1 green pepper – 85 grams
5 bay leaves
4 teaspoons Cajun or any mixed spice seasoning containing celery salt, garlic, thyme
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tabasco
2 teaspoons salt or to taste (we went easy on the salt)
1 lb. can whole, peeled plum tomatoes – 500 grams
13 ounces andouille sausage (4 in total), cut into diagonal rounds – 356 grams
6 fresh, whole oysters, shucked including juice
6 fresh, large shrimp, shells and tails removed, each cut in thirds
11 ounces medium, whole frozen shrimp, thawed to room temperature, each cut in half – 310 grams
To serve: 10-12 cups cooked, white rice
* It helps to have two people making gumbo. One to stir the roux, the other to ready the gumbo ingredients. At any point, the two can trade places.
To make the roux:
1. Heat 1 cup vegetable oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet until hot but not smoking, approximately 5 minutes.
2. Add 1 cup white flour and stir with wooden spatula to combine.
3. Lower heat and continue stirring oil and flour without pause for what will seem like FOREVER, but which is actually about an hour. Be sure to regularly scrape the pan bottom to prevent flour and oil from sticking. As you stir, the roux, as it’s called, will slowly change color from pale beige/grey to warm yellow to light caramel and then medium-dark brown caramel.
4. Once the roux is in the medium caramel-colored range, remove pan from heat and continue stirring a few minutes longer, until it turns slightly darker caramel brown. It’s important to remove pan from heat BEFORE the roux gets too dark, as it will continue cooking off the burner.
5. Whatever you do, DO NOT WALK AWAY from the roux, ALLOW IT TO SIT for too long without stirring, or LEAVE HEAT TOO HIGH, which will cause it to burn. If you sense the pan becoming too hot or see it starting to smoke, immediately remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before returning to low heat.
* There are some very talented people, probably Creole or Cajun folks, who can safely make a nearly black roux. Do not imagine you are one of them. Just take it slowly. Remember, they call New Orleans (N’awlins) the “Big Easy” for a reason. Roux may seem intimidating, and it is a bit of an art, but mostly it requires a calm head and a good nose.
While the roux is heating, a second person can do the steps below. In terms of timing, you want to have the roux finish so it’s ready to add to the broth and vegetables when you’re about at the halfway point:
1. Chop okra, bell peppers, and celery into 1/4″ pieces. Finely dice onion. Set each aside in separate bowls.
2. Into a large, deep pot, pour half the broth and warm under low to medium heat, approximately 10-15 minutes.
3. Add okra, onions, celery, and green peppers. Stir to combine. Cook until slightly softened, approximately 10 minutes.
4. Add whole tomatoes and spices. Stir to combine. Cook another 10 minutes.
5. Using wooden spoon, add roux to broth and continue stirring to combine. To keep gumbo from becoming too thick or gummy, quickly add remaining broth in cup measurements, stirring to combine. Stop before it gets thin and soupy.
6. Add andouille sausage and oysters. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer.
7. Let gumbo cook, uncovered, simmering, another 30 to 45 minutes. Continue stirring gumbo occasionally, checking thickness, and add more broth as needed to maintain thick but not pastey consistency.
8. After 30 minutes, add fresh and defrosted shrimp.
9. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. The taste should be spicy but not burning. Allow to cook another 10 minutes until shrimp is done.
10. To serve, ladle gumbo over 1-2 cups hot rice. Gumbo can be eaten right away, but some contend it tastes even better the next day.