This dish brings me right back to Mama’s kitchen. Shrimp and sausage gumbo falls along side French bread and chips and salsa under the “can’t live without” category for me.
My mom grew up in Southeast Texas where the best of Creole, Mexican and Southern foods combine. Although according to my grandmother, Creole gumbo does not usually include sausage, the heartiness of the links add spice and depth to this dish. I chose a jalapeno pork sausage to bring extra heat to my gumbo, but regular sausage will do just fine.
File (pronounced fee-lay, or “file” as I so reverently refer to it as) is an essential. It’s made from dried and ground sassafras leaves. It is not only included in the gumbo, but often used as a garnish for extra seasoning. It is a fragrant additive with an almost black tea taste to it. It also helps thicken the broth.
Another thickening agent used here is okra. I cut them thick, as to prevent complete liquidation of the green beauties. Their sliminess, which is often a turn off for okra amateurs, brings an added thickness to the broth and roux. They lose their gooey texture; so for those who are put off by the vegetable, this is a great introduction into the Wonderful World of Okra.
Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
2 strips of bacon, diced
1 pound smoked sausage, cubed
1 stick of butter, or 1/2 cup
1/4 cup flour
2 quarts chicken stock
1 large onion
1 pound okra, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch thick pieces
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 Bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
1 Tablespoons gumbo file
1 pound shrimp
Salt and pepper, to taste
Start by cooking the bacon and sausage in cast iron pot. Because of the obvious greasiness of the meats, little to no oil is needed for cooking. Once browned, remove from pot.
Saute onions, celery, green bell pepper, okra and garlic in meat fat. Remove from pot when onions are translucent.
At this point, it’s time to make the “roux”, which is essential to gumbo. The seemingly daunting task is made easy in this recipe: add flour and butter to meat fat in pan. Constantly stir for about 4 minutes. You’ll know the roux is ready butter melts, flour is fully incorporated and has reached a medium to dark caramel color. I like a lighter roux in my gumbo, but feel free to cook until brick reddish-brown.
When roux is ready, add tomatoes, stock, sautéed meat and vegetables, Bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to a boil, and cook 15 minutes. Reduce to a simmer, or risk tough shrimp.
Toss shrimp with cayenne, salt, pepper and file. Add to rest of the simmering gumbo.
Continue cooking on a low simmer for about 45 minutes.
Serve over rice, with a sprinkle of file if desired. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.