Fabes and I got engaged in New Orleans. We’ve visited the city twice now and have really fallen in love with it – its history, culture and community make it a truly special city.
But I think what sold me (not on the engagement, on the city) was the food – always exciting and often indulgent – it’s hard to be a food lover and not love New Orleans. (Admittedly, you probably want to be a meat and/or seafood eater too.)
Every meal we shared exceeded expectations - from po’boy shops to seafood feasts. There are dishes from our first trip that we still talk about. We’re clearly obsessed.
So when F popped the question we were in the perfect place to celebrate. And celebrate we did.
The city, specifically the French Quarter, feels festive at all times of the year and all days of the week so we were in good company to eat and drink with abandon in honor of our fiancé status.
This trip, we managed to fit in a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. We learned how to make jambalaya and gumbo and also about the history of New Orleans and the evolution of its cuisine – which was super cool!
I think about our trip often and love getting out the spice mixes I bought while we were there.
I made this gumbo one night after doing a little wedding planning. It just felt right.
Gumbo can be made with lots of different proteins – chicken and sausage is a popular version, as is seafood. I opted for an easy, slightly lightened up adaptation of a seafood gumbo for an easy and flavor-packed weeknight meal.
Adapted from Dr. Babs’ (awesome name, btw) recipe via Food52
Notes: I used a Creole spice blend that I picked up at the New Orleans School of Cooking (Joe’s Stuff), if you don’t have a similar blend, you can create one by using the originally suggested spice combination of: 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. I strongly suggest using fresh shrimp and their shells to make the quick stock, but you can use frozen and thawed shrimp in a pinch.
- 1 pound (approx. 1/2 a kilo) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined; shells rinsed and reserved
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of Creole spice mix like Joe’s (or see note above)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
Optional to serve:
- brown rice
- Tabasco sauce to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Make the roux: In a large cast iron dutch oven, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-low heat. Sprinkle flour over the oil and stir till it’s completely blended. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat, until the flour-oil mixture browns and is dark caramel-colored. (Be careful not to let it burn.)
Stir in the onions, celery, garlic and green peppers. Sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few turns of freshly-ground pepper. Stir well. Cover dutch oven and let vegetables cook in roux until softened.
While vegetables are cooking, put shrimp shells into a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water and good pinch of salt. (Shrimp shells should be barely covered – add more water if not.) Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer until shells are bright pink.
To the vegetables in the dutch oven, add the tomatoes, creole spice mix, lemon, and Worcestershire sauce. Strain the shrimp stock into the soup, stir, and let simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the shrimp and let simmer in the soup till just firm and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes, depending on size. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve with a scoop of brown rice and a couple lashings of Tabasco or preferred hot sauce.