For Halloween this year, we wanted to make something that could be cooked ahead of time and would be easy to eat in between answering the door to hand out candy. We ultimately decided to make gumbo, which Dan hadn’t made in quite a while (and we’ll be honest, the last batch wasn’t our favorite). Maybe it was a better recipe, or more cooking experience between this night and the prior gumbo, but our Spooky Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo was delicious! So good that we’re considering having this gumbo be our new Halloween tradition.
Dan adapted his gumbo recipe from one found in the cookbook from the amazing New Orleans restaurant Arnaud’s. We were fortunate enough to dine there back in May of this year and absolutely loved it. If you are ever in New Orleans, you have to go there. And when you do, you have to order the Soufle Potatoes. We insist. Best.Potato.You.Will.Ever.Eat.
On with the gumbo. The first step is to make the shrimp stock. (Another option would be to use fish stock from the grocery store, but it can be difficult to find. Other recipes call for chicken broth, or even plain water.) One of the main ingredients of the stock is shrimp shells. For the shells, peel the shrimp that you’ll be using in the gumbo. (Be sure to put the peeled shrimp in the fridge while the gumbo cooks.)
Update: If you plan to cook the shrimp stock and roux at the same time, you ideally want to cook the roux in the heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and cook the stock in a stock pot. We did not do it this way the first time we made gumbo, and ended up having to transfer the roux and veggies into the Dutch oven after the stock was done. Best case — you want to cook the roux in the same pot in which you will cook the gumbo.
Add all the ingredients (water, celery, onion, carrot, whole peppercorns, bay leaves and shrimp shells) to a big pot and cook them over medium heat until simmering. Reduce heat to low and cook for approximately an hour.
While the stock cooks, it’s time to get the candy ready! We usually have a pretty wide variety, including lots of chocolate-based treats and a good amount of Skittles and/or Starbursts type candy for those who don’t prefer chocolate (we exist!) Above is our serving bowl for hand-outs at the door.
Then we have our back-up candy in a big pot for re-filling the serving bowl quickly if we get lots of kids coming to the door.
And two more big bags of back-up candy….
This year we also handed out little boxes of stickers and temporary tattoos. The kids seemed to like them.
So did Dan.
Bring on the trick-or-treaters!
Now that we’re ready for the kiddos and the shrimp stock is still cooking, it’s time to make the “roux” for the gumbo. Heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in a pan.
Then add 1/3 cup of flour and stir together. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring often, for about 30-45 minutes. You want the roux to develop into a nice chocolate color.
See how it starts changing color? Keep stirring often so that it doesn’t burn.
Update: Once the roux starts to turn this dark tan, you’ll want to stir it pretty much constantly so it won’t stick to the bottom and burn.
In between stirring, chop up the celery, onion and green bell pepper — also known as “the holy trinity” of Cajun cuisine.
The roux is definitely getting darker.
When it reaches this color, it’s done. It’s also really really really hot and just on the verge of scorching.
So turn down the heat a bit and add the veggies.
Mix in the veggies so they are coated with the roux, then cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
Next add the garlic, tomatoes, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper and bay leaves, then stir to combine well and cook for a few minutes.
Booooo – we interrupt the cooking portion of this Halloween post with a shot of Bella the Cat practicing her evil stare to scare the children. Pretty good, I think.
When the shrimp stock is done, you’ll need to strain out the ingredients.
Place a fine mesh strainer or colander in or over the bowl you will use to collect the stock. We also used a piece of cheesecloth over the colander to pick up even more particles (although cheesecloth is not a necessity.)
Carefully pour out the stock and ingredients.
Throw out all the collected ingredients, and you have shrimp stock.
Sophie the (Scaredy) Cat says Happy Halloween from her hiding spot in the sofa cushions. (By virtue of her existence with black fur and gold eyes, she also says “Go Steelers.” But apparently they didn’t hear her that night.)
We only have 2 cats, so I’m done with the crazy cat lady photos now.
Shrimp stock, poured back into the Dutch oven, minus all the shells and other flavoring ingredients.
Add the gumbo ingredients that have already been cooking to the shrimp stock.
Then add the andouille sausage, cut into bit-sized round pieces.
Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Answer the door to hand out candy.
About 30 minutes into this part of the cooking process, add the okra and the parsley. The recipe called for frozen okra, but we still had some fresh okra available at the grocery store, so we used fresh.
Update: Okra is a must-have for this recipe, not just because it adds flavor, but also because it helps to thicken the gumbo. So if you can’t find fresh okra, definitely get the frozen.
Continue simmering the gumbo on low, uncovered, for about 15-30 more minutes. Stir occasionally, in between handing out candy.
Next add the shrimp and a generous pinch of salt, and cook over low heat until the shrimp is done, approximately 4-8 minutes.
Serve the gumbo over white rice and garnish with chopped green onion tops.
Hope your Halloween was as happy (and delicious) as ours!
Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced green peppers
- 3-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 pound andouille sausage
- 2 quarts shrimp stock (recipe follows) (could also use chicken stock or water)
- 1 cup chopped okra
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 pounds shrimp
- 4-5 chopped green onions (green parts only) for garnish
Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart heavy Dutch oven, and stir together to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it develops the color of chocolate, approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Be careful not to scorch it!
Add the diced onion, celery and green peppers, stir, and cook approximately 10 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic, tomatoes, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, bay leaves and stir to combine all of the ingredients. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat.
Add the shrimp stock and andouille sausage, heat to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour. After about 30 minutes, add the okra and parsley and continue cooking over low heat.
Add shrimp and a generous pinch of salt, then cook over low heat until the shrimp is done, approximately 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve over white rice, garnished with chopped green onion tops.
- 2 1/2 quarts water
- 1-2 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- shells from 2 pounds of shrimp
- 2 bay leaves
Add all ingredients to a pot, heat over medium heat until the water reaches a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cook for approximately an hour. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and throw the solids away.