Something about Creole and Cajun cooking that seems to whisper unspeakable goodness in every dish you just canâ€™t seem to pin down. I have yet to distinguish the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine, although both are so closely related both in the origins of its people and their food. Many say that Creole cuisine leans to a more sophisticated and contemporary appeal, while Cajun cooking is a bit more spicy and rural due the use of a wide variety of ingredients.
Definitely, anything that says Cajun or Creole always requires the spicy goodness of cayenne peppers and the inclusion of the â€œholy trinityâ€ in most of their dishes. The holy trinity being, chopped onion, celery and green peppers. As it is with their French origin, where a mirepoix calls for onions, celery and carrots … Creoles have adapted the same but omitting carrots and replacing it with peppers , tomatoes and okra as these vegetables were all contributed by historic influences during the French quarter in New Orleans.
Gumbo is purely traditional Louisiana Creole cuisine that is basically a stew based on seafood, sausages and chicken. Itâ€™s name is taken from the word Gombo, which is a word used in West and Central Africa for okra. The French made their own version of the word and turned it into Gumbo as it was how they heard it from the Africans. Gombo is a shortened version of Kilogombo or kigambo. Itâ€™s close cousin, the Jambalaya comes from the Spanish influence of the paella in New Orleans.
Today, gumbo has become a signature dish to Louisiana French Creoles. Itâ€™s rich texture is thickened by the combination of a proper roux and that of the okra vegetable. It is traditionally served with a side of potato salad. But over the years it has become a norm to serve gumbo with buttered French bread or with steamed rice.
The colourful beginnings of this southern US state has a lot to do with the complex flavours of their dishes. Any stew hits familiar notes of home, but a Creole gumbo brings your palette to a delightful adventure filled with a rich mix of soul and tradition.
CREOLE SHRIMP GUMBO
1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 (4 pound) chicken, cut into parts
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2/3 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
3 cups okra, sliced and fried
8 cups water
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1. In a medium skillet, brown the sausage over medium heat. Remove from pan, and drain on paper towels to remove some of the fat. Discard fat in pan.
2. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over high heat. Brown chicken pieces in hot oil. Turn frequently until golden brown on all sides. Transfer chicken to a dish, leaving oil in pan. Set chicken aside, but keep warm.
3. Make a roux by whisking flour into the hot vegetable oil. Turn heat down to low. Continue cooking flour and oil mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches a dark brown color. This may take 30 to 45 minutes; the darker the roux, the better the final gumbo.
4. When the roux is a dark brown color, quickly add the sausage, onion, green onion tops, green pepper, fried okra slices, parsley, and garlic. Cook over low heat until the vegetables are wilted, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Stir in 2 cups water and spices. Add chicken parts. Add rest of the water slowly. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for about 45 minutes, until chicken is done and tender.
6. Remove chicken pieces, and save for another use. Add shrimp to gumbo; cook for about 8 to 10 minutes more. Remove bay leaves. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve gumbo in deep bowls. Sprinkle file powder over individual servings, and stir in.
Photo Credit: AmySelleck
Photo Credit: FotoCuisine
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