If you've ever been to New Orleans, you know that gumbo is a food staple. It's a hearty and savory stew made with sausage, seafood and vegetables. I had a friend from NOLA who used to make gumbo and I fell in love with it. The key to a great gumbo is the roux (flour + fat) -that's why this recipe uses bacon fat. It gives it so much flavor and gets it to that beautiful mahogany color that you want with a good gumbo. This is one of a few dishes that is frequently requested in my house and I'm happy to oblige. I like to eat it over white rice, or some people add a scoop of rice on top of the stew.
Here's how to make it:
NOTE: This could take up to 3 hours to make, so plan ahead!
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bacon drippings + 2 TBS (omit the additional 2 TBS if you're not using okra)
1 large coarsely chopped onion
1 large coarsely chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
12 cups water
6 beef bouillon cubes
1 TBS granulated sugar
2 TBS hot sauce (I like Crystal hot sauce, Tabasco works too), or to taste
1/2 TSP cajun seasoning blend (I use Tony Chachere's®), or to taste
4 bay leaves
1/2 TSP dried thyme leaves
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce
4 TSP filé powder, divided (I like the Zatarain's brand)
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen cut okra, thawed (I don't like okra so I left this out and it was still delish!)
2 TBS distilled white vinegar (omit if you're not using okra)
1 pound crab legs (you can also use lump crabmeat)
3 pounds uncooked medium shrimp (I like using unpeeled fresh shrimp, but you can use peeled and deveined. If using frozen, make sure it's completely thawed before using)
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
salt to taste
TIP: It helps to mise en place (prepare the ingredients before you start cooking - chopping the veggies, sausage, etc.). Saves time and makes it much easier!
Make a roux by whisking the flour and 3/4 cup bacon drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Whisk the roux constantly until it turns a rich mahogany brown color, about 20 to 30 minutes. It's worth the work! If you aren't continually whisking it may burn.
Once the roux reaches the mahogany color, remove it from the heat and continue whisking until the mixture stops cooking.
Place the onion, green bell pepper, and garlic into a food processor, and pulse until the vegetables are very finely chopped.
Stir the vegetables into the roux, and add in the sausage.
Set your stove to medium-low heat and simmer the mixture until the vegetables are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.
Bring the 12 cups of water and beef bouillon cubes to a boil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Stir until the bouillon cubes dissolve and whisk the roux/sausage/veggie mixture into the boiling water.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and mix in the sugar, salt (I recommend 1/2 TSP salt, you can add more later if you need it), hot pepper sauce, cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
Simmer over low heat for 1 hour. After 45 minutes, mix in 2 TSP of the filé powder and let cook the additional 15 minutes.
* Skip this step and the next one if you're not using okra. Melt 2 TBS of bacon drippings in a skillet and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Remove the okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo.
Mix in the crab legs (or crabmeat), shrimp, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 45 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the additional 2 TSP of filé powder.
Serve it over white rice, add more hot sauce if you like it spicy and enjoy!
Did you make it? Share pics in the comments!