Sometimes I let my fridge do the talking when I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner, so when I had several leftover stalks of celery, most of an onion and lots of diced bell peppers at my disposal, I took to the Internet for a solution.
Much to Joey’s delight, I decided to try a recipe for gumbo.
I headed to the grocery store to finish my ingredient list and realized that one item on the list, gumbo file, which is made from sassafras leaves, is not sold in most Kansas grocery stores. (If someone knows a hidden spot it exists, let me know).
After doing a little research, I decided to get a little weird and substitute for the gumbo file with a bit of root beer, since it has much the same flavor. I tried my gumbo before and after adding it, and I had to admit that it had a nice influence on the taste, so just go with me on this one.
I found this recipe on the blog “Little Spice Jar.” You can find it at http://littlespicejar.com/new-orleans-gumbo-shrimp-sausage/. I added more garlic and changed up the type of Tabasco (which I highly recommend), and of course, subbed in root beer in my version.
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New Orleans Shrimp
and Sausage Gumbo
1/2 cup high-heat oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup flour
1 onion, diced (I used yellow)
2 bell peppers, diced (any color)
4 stalks celery, diced
8-10 cloves minced garlic
8 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning)
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce (I used chipotle Tabasco)
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
14.5 ounces stewed tomatoes and juices, diced
2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 tablespoons root beer
White rice for serving
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Whisk in the flour until it is smooth and then stir continuously for about 20 minutes or until the roux turns to a medium brown (the author calls it “peanut butter color”).
Stir in the onions, bell peppers and celery and keep stirring until they soften (about 10 minutes).
Add the garlic and sausage and keep stirring until you can really smell the garlic.
Now add the bay leaves, Cajun seasoning, Tabasco sauce, cayenne, chicken broth and tomatoes, making sure to scrape the pan to get all the good bits off the bottom.
Bring the mixture to a very low boil and lower the heat to medium-low and leave the lid on for about 15 minutes.
Stir in the shrimp and cook for about 10 more minutes or until the shrimp is done (they will curl up a bit and become opaque). Add the root beer and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the bay leaves and serve the gumbo over white rice.
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We reheated this on the stove over the next week so as not to overcook the shrimp, and it was good every single time. It makes a ton of food, especially when you’re serving it over rice, so we had quite a few meals of gumbo before it was all gone.
It’s definitely on the spicy side, so you could leave out the cayenne and replace it with paprika to tame it a bit if you like, but it was super good with the amount of kick it had.
It also helped me clean out my fridge and gave me a new use for root beer that I wasn’t expecting.
Sometimes you have to be inventive and flexible in your Midwestern kitchen.
Lindsey Young is managing editor of The Clarion, the Kansas Publishing Ventures newspaper in Andale. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.