After we traded in the idea of Mardis Gras in New Orleans for Mardis Gras in Michigan (this gave me the opportunity to introduce Neil to his first Fat Tuesday paczki), Neil and I had Cajun cooking on the brain. It didn’t take long for us to fill the kitchen with the incredible smells of a delicious sausage gumbo, a thick Cajun stew. A perfect meal for a future pig farmer and a lady with ambiguous dietary self-restrictions.
Holy cow, was it good! Before I get to the recipe, here are a couple of things we learned as we looked for the perfect recipe:
1. Bell pepper, onion and celery are sometimes called the “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking – a flavor blend common in the cuisine – and they definitely add to the depth and flavor of the gumbo.
2. Filé powder, a seasoning made from ground sassafras leaves, is often used to thicken and flavor gumbos. Often it’s added just before eating. We weren’t able to find it, so if you’ve ever tried it, I’d love to know what it’s like.
3. A good roux (pronounced “roo”) is CRUCIAL
What’s a roux, you ask? Basically, it’s a cooked mixture of flour and fat. But oh, it’s so much more than that! It adds thickness, depth and flavor (not to mention a cooking challenge!) to an average pot of soup.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4 hungry people)
2 links sausage (we tried Andouille and Keilbasa courtesy of Zingerman’s Deli and the Copernicus European Delicatessen)
1/3C oil or butter
1/2 C flour (whole wheat pastry or white)
1 large onion, finely cut into large half-moons
3 cloves garlic
2 green bell peppers, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 Tbs mixture of thyme, paprika, cayenne, bay leaves, oregano (or a handy Cajun spices blend)
3 quarts stock, warm
1/3 C chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
6C cooked brown rice
the how to
- Cut the sausages into 1/2″ slices and cook over medium-high heat until browned in your soup pot. No oil necessary – they should release plenty of their own. Pour them in a bowl and set aside for now.
- Using the grease released by the sausage (and the additional oil or butter, as necessary), pour in the flour and begin to make your roux. Stir continuously – it can quickly burn. The flour should get to a thick pasty consistency – not too wet, not too dry; add more oil if it’s drying out – and should look somewhere between a dark copper and rich chocolatey color. This depends on your patience and preferences, but can take anywhere between 7 and 20 minutes of stirring (it’s worth it, I promise!)
- Once your roux has darkened, add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper and spices and cook until the vegetables have softened and the onions are translucent.
- Add the stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Then turn the stove down to low and let simmer for half an hour.
- Add the cooked sausage and continue to cook for half an hour+ until the soup has reached the consistency you’d like and the flavors have melded.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and throw in the chopped parsley just before serving.
- Serve over rice, topped with Tobasco sauce and accompanied by a spicy glass of wine.
- Savor the flavors. Happy Belated Mardis Gras!
In our recipe searchings, Neil and I came across a cookbook (Justin Wilson’s Homegrown Louisiana Cookin’) written with a crystal clear -and hilarious- voice: