There ain’t nothin’ in this world more awesome than Gumbo. Even the name – Gumbo – is awesomely fun to say. There may be some “traditions” when it comes to Gumbo, like most stew-soups, just about anything goes into the pot and often does.
The word “Gumbo” might be French, the dish itself is 100% American, and the official state cuisine of Louisiana, it’s birthplace. Gumbo consists primarily of a strong-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the Holy Trinity of vegetables in Louisiana – celery, bell peppers and onions.
While the dish may hail from the the New Orleans French quarters, it is a cauldron of ingredients and culinary practices of the various cultures that called Louisiana home. The influences of Africans, Spanish, German and Choctaw Indians clearly come through. It is proof that we can all play nice together.
First described in print in 1802; Gumbo was listed in various cookbooks in the latter half of the 19th century. Gumbo gained widespread popularity in the 1970s, when the United States Senate dining room added it to the menu to honor Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender, who died in office in 1972. He had served in the U.S. Senate for 35 years. Had Senator Ellender died today, Gumbo might not have found its way to the Senate Dining Halls. The Senator opposed the Vietnam War, while voting against the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He supported segregation in the south, putting his name to the Southern Manifesto of 1956. Most unsettling was that the Senator opposed anti-lynching legislation in 1938. Today there would be protests and a call to remove Gumbo from the menu. Back then, no one thought twice of honoring such a man at his passing. He was honored for his civil service and not his political stance.
It’s a good thing we can overlook how Gumbo became popular and simply enjoy the dish.
Louisiana Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
1 Red Bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium Onion, coarsely chopped
1 Celery Rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Garlic Cloves, very finely chopped
1/2 pound Andouille Sausage, coin-cut
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose Flour
4 cups Chicken Stock
2 Thyme Sprigs
3/4 lb medium Shrimp; shelled and deveined
1 Scallion or Spring Onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Flat-leaf (Italian) Parsley, finely chopped
Cut bell pepper, onion and celery. Set aside. Peel and mince garlic. Set aside. Cut Sausage, set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the red bell pepper, chopped onion, celery, chopped garlic and cayenne. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and cook them over moderately high heat until they are softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage to the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top of the sausage and vegetables and stir until evenly coated. Add the chicken stock and thyme sprigs and simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp and scallion to the saucepan, season lightly with salt and simmer, stirring, until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Discard the thyme sprigs. Stir the parsley into the gumbo and serve at once.
Serve with steamed white rice, crusty bread and a tomato-spinach salad, this is comfort food at its best.