Bayou Soul Food
Deep in the Louisiana bayou, Cajuns still live off the land—trapping, shrimping, crabbing and hunting. Cooks make gumbo with nutria, a giant, water-dwelling rodent. I learned my gumbo techniques from a trapper’s wife, but I use oysters and crab; no rodent required. This dish’s success hinges on the roux, which is the foundation to all gumbos. You’re basically scorching the flour in the hot oil (that’s why it turns that deep shade of brown), so do it slow and easy, kids. The stars of this gumbo are the fresh, shucked oysters and crab meat.
How to shuck an oyster:
Andouille, Crab & Oyster Gumbo
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 large celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 habanero chile, minced and most seeds discarded
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 pound okra, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons filé powder (see Note)
- 5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 3 cups bottled clam juice
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
- 2 dozen shucked oysters and their liquor
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Steamed rice or crusty bread, for serving
In a large pot, stir the flour and oil until smooth. Cook over moderate heat, stirring every 45 seconds, until the roux turns a rich brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the andouille, celery, onion, red pepper, habanero, garlic, okra, thyme, bay leaf and half of the filé powder and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, clam juice, Worcestershire and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the remaining filé powder and add the crab, oysters and their liquor. Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for 1 minute to just cook the oysters. Serve the gumbo with rice or bread.
MAKE AHEAD The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently and proceed.
NOTES Filé powder, made from the ground dried leaves of the sassafras tree, is used as a thickener. Look for it in the spice section of most supermarkets.
Photo by Stephanie Meyer.