I was ten years old when my Cousin Kate was born. I was so thrilled to have a baby girl cousin, but I was equally thrilled about all the food that friends and neighbors had brought over to my Aunt Tara’s house.
Knowing that the new baby couldn’t eat the food, I decided to help out.
Someone had brought over this one soup in particular that kind of amazed me. It was sort of thick, a little spicy, had lots of vegetables, and was dotted with little shrimp.
I ate the entire Tupperware container of it.
“Oh, Mom,” I remember saying. “What kind of soup is this? Can you make some?”
She said she thought it was kind of like a gumbo — a word I’d never heard before — and that there was a new restaurant in town called Jozo’s that might have something similar.
Shortly thereafter, she took me to Jozo’s, where I began a sordid love affair with cajun food. Chicken etouffee, veggie succotash, shrimp creole, jambalaya, and yes — gumbo. Jozo’s had it all. And I ate it.
I remained a devotee through college, eating at Jozo’s at least weekly, right up until I moved to California. I’ve been here for 8 years now, and in all of Los Angeles — where there’s supposed to be something for everybody — I still have not found decent cajun food.
I have finally accepted that cajun food is now in the same category as pimiento cheese for me: if I want it, I’m going to have to make it myself.
Luckily, I happened across this fabulous crock pot gumbo recipe. Listen, y’all, obviously I recommend all of the recipes I put on here. But this one is extra special.
Hubba Bubba took one bite and declared it a winner. Ten-year-old me would have been so impressed.
CROCK POT GUMBO
1/4 C canola oil
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb Andouille sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 medium to large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C frozen cut okra (or more if you’re an okra lover)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small can mild diced green chilies, undrained
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
black pepper to taste (but be pretty generous)
1 tsp Creole seasoning, such as Zatarain’s (If you happen to have it. If not, you’ll be fine without it.)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and cooked
I love any dish that starts with a roux! A roux is an equal mix of flour and fat (either butter or oil), and it basically thickens and helps to flavor a dish. Depending on how long you cook your roux, it can be either light, medium, or dark. If your roux begins to burn at all, there’s no saving it. You’ll need to throw it out and start over. It’s disheartening, but it’s not the end of the world. To help prevent this from happening, you will need to:
– Make sure your heat is not too high.
– Stir constantly.
– Remove from heat before you think it’s quite done. The heat from the pan will continue to cook and darken the roux.
In a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat (closer to medium than high), combine oil and flour to make your roux. Whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes, until the roux becomes fragrant and just begins to darken. Turn heat down to low and whisk constantly for several more minutes, or until the roux is about the color of peanut butter.
Pour the roux into the crock pot. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT shrimp. The mixture will seem all raw and gross at this point. Trust. Stir and cover. Cook on low for 7-9 hours. (But if, like me, you don’t quite have 7-9 hours, you can cook it on high for a shorter amount of time. I did high heat for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, then turned it down to low for a couple of hours. It’s a crock pot; you can’t go wrong.)
When you have about 20 minutes to go, add the shrimp.
Serve over rice. I also recommend a side of garlic bread.
Laissez les bon temps rouler,