My friends call me lucky because my wife is a trained chef. I suppose I am. But when she makes gumbo, I know I am. Her gumbo is simply the best I’ve ever tasted, and anybody who has had a bowl agrees with me. But there is no deep, dark, arkane secret involved in making a knock-out gumbo. What makes it is being faithful to its ingredients. Now I suppose I need to say here that there are many types of gumbos. You can have seafood gumbo, which is what the above photo is about, or you can have a sausage gumbo or a chicken gumbo or a pork gumbo, etc. Gumbo is basically a hearty soup typically served over rice where either a roux is used or gumbo file (ground sassafras leaves) is added, or both.
I feel like writing about seafood gumbo because this is what my wife fixes and I think seafood gumbo is the King of Gumbos. Done right, seafood gumbo is not a cheap dish. We usually make a large dutch-kettle-sized pot of it, and in that quantity, the ingredients will cost upwards of $50. So if you want to make a good seafood gumbo, be prepared to shell out a few bucks. It is so worth it, though.
Our recipe is an adaptation of Paul Prudhomme’s seafood gumbo with andouille smoked sausage, the recipe for which can be found in his landmark book, Louisiana Kitchen, and out on the internet, if you search for it. Rather than give you a rundown on the way my wife makes her gumbo, it makes better sense for you to just go to the source, try Prudhomme’s recipe first, and then do as we have done — adapt it to your own set of preferences. My wife did a fair amount of experimentation before she finally settled on a recipe we all seem to prefer. The base is a roux mixed with a modified mirepoix, called the trinity in Cajun and Creole cooking. A typical mirepoix is diced onions, carrots and celery, but the trinity is diced onions, bell peppers, and celery. Added to the base is Prudhomme’s suite of seasonings, and seafood stock. This is the basic gumbo stock. She then adds the seafood — crab, shrimp, and oysters (with their liquor) — and the sausage. Andouille sausage is what’s called for, but we often use a good quality Louisiana smoked sausage, and we feel it works just as well.
A lot of Paul’s Cajun and Creole recipes, including gumbos, can be found at his website. If you enjoy Cajun and Creole cooking, give his recipes a try. They’re not hard. And most aren’t nearly as expensive as seafood gumbo is. Best of all, they are so worth it!