The great Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme left us recently. He was one of my favorite chefs and favorite people. He loved to talk about spices and cooking and would chat for hours with anyone who was interested in what he had to say.
One of the first cookbooks I ever bought was Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen
. It's a book I still refer to frequently, and I especially like his recipe for seafood file gumbo.
The recipe that follows is based on Chef Paul's, but feel free to add or subtract ingredients and make it your own. as I have. Adding some crawfish tails, for example, would be a delicious option, or some okra, perhaps, for those who like it. If you don't eat meat, you could dispense with the andouille and substitute fish, oysters, scallops or whatever. I often throw in some lobster in addition to the shrimp and crab.
I hope you'll try this recipe. And if you do - and you like it - don't thank me; thank Paul Prudhomme.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
12 oz. andouille sausage, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs. Louisiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
2 Tbs. file powder
1 1/2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
4 cups seafood, chicken or vegetable stock (homemade seafood stock is preferable)
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lb. crab meat
Cooked white rice
Place the chopped onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, andouille and bay leaves into a large bowl and set aside.
Begin by first making a dark roux. A roux is usually a 50/50 mixture of flour and oil. A word of warning: Hot roux can reach 500 degrees F. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN MAKING ROUX. If it splatters onto your skin, it's like hot lava. Not fun. It's not surprising it's often called Cajun Napalm. So, I recommend using a long wooden spoon or spatula to stir the roux and using gloves to cover your hands and forearms, if possible.
Heat the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottom cast-iron pot or Dutch oven. Make sure the pot is very clean first.
When the oil begins to smoke, add the flour and stir, stir, stir — constantly. The roux will begin to change color, at first turning yellow and then peanut-butter color as it cooks. Keep stirring until you have a brown roux, about the color of chocolate-cake frosting.
Carefully, to avoid splashing the hot roux, add all of the ingredients of the bowl — onion, celery, garlic, peppers, andouille etc.
Cook, over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes, stirring the mixture until the vegetables soften a little.
Next, add the tomato sauce, hot sauce, file powder and Creole seasoning. Stir well and cook over medium-high heat for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot so the mixture doesn't stick.
Add the 4 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and allow the gumbo to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Just before serving, bring the gumbo back to the boil. Add the shrimp and crab meat to the pot. Place a lid on the pot, remove it from the heat, and allow the seafood to poach for 10 minutes.
Serve with cooked white rice and perhaps some hush puppies alongside.
Photos by Ted Scheffler