Shrimp and Duck Gumbo

Shrimp and Duck Gumbo with Red Rice

Seafood, smoked meats, and rice are some of my favourite foods, so dishes like Gumbo have always been near and dear to my heart. When it appears on restaurant menus, it’s hard for me to resist the temptation to order it, even though I often regret it. It has occurred to me that perhaps these restaurants had it right all along and that it was I who didn’t know what gumbo should taste like, but I’ve always had this nagging suspicion that these yankee restaurants were somehow missing the soul of Gumbo.

To test my hypothesis, I had gumbo three times in as many days while I was down in Louisiana. Unsurprisingly, they were far better than any I’d ever had previously, but what did surprise me was that each one was radically different from the other. There was the Rabbit and Adouille Filé Gumbo at Brigsten’s, the Green Gumbo with Oysters at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market, and the Shrimp Gumbo with a Deviled Egg at Cochon. So which one was the most authentic?

As it turns out they were all authentic. Like its Latin cousin chili, gumbo has as many variations as there are people who cook it. In looking through a ton of recipes I noticed that they typically have four things in common: a protein, a mirepoix, a thickener and rice. The protein can take the shape of smoked Andouille sausage, Tasso ham, chicken, pork and or shellfish. The mirepoix usually has onions, peppers and celery, but I’ve seen versions that include all kinds of other vegetables. Then, to thicken the gumbo, most recipes call for a mixture of a flour and fat based roux along with either okra or filé powder.

Roux and Mirepoix

In the past I’d darkened the roux, but never took it past medium brown. While tasty, my gumbo was never quite the flavour bomb that I experienced in New Orleans. After having a taste of gumbo from its homeland, I decided to revisit and revise my gumbo. I had a vision of a thick, dark nutty stock that explodes with smokey, peppery flavour on the tongue.

For a true Cajun style gumbo, the roux needs to be cooked until it’s a dark chocolate brown. This gives it an intense nutty flavour, but I wasn’t satisfied with just nutty, so rather than using a high smoke point oil, I used the most flavourful oil I could think of: duck fat. You could also use butter, lard or bacon grease, but if you use butter, make sure you clarify it first or the milk solids in it will burn. This is the trickiest part of making gumbo, mainly because it has to be constantly stirred to keep it from burning. Timing is also important because there’s a very fine line between deep earthy flavour and bitter acrid carbon.

Many recipes, call for making the roux, then adding the raw vegetable to it, but I wanted to coax more flavour out of the vegetables, so I browned the duck and sausages first then sauteed the mirepoix in the fat from the meat until it started to caramelize.

Gumbo with shrimp and duck

This gets the gumbo off to a good start, but to really get the flavour going, I simmered the duck legs and Andouille sausage in stock until the duck meat was falling off the bones. To get the full tongue coating thickness, I used a combination of the roux and okra, which gives the gumbo a pleasing slickness without being slimy. The shrimp goes in at the very end, steeping in the hot liquid off the heat, cooking them perfectly.

Served over a bed of rice with some crusty bread, it’s a satisfying meal that should last you a few days.

8oz andouille sausage sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
2 whole duck legs

for mirepoix
2 medium onions chopped
3 medium stalks celery chopped (about 1 1/2 C)
1 medium green bell pepper chopped
1 medium red bell pepper chopped
6 cloves garlic minced
chili peppers minced (I used 3 whole serranos)

for roux
1/4 C duck fat (clarified butter or lard will work as well)
1/4 C flour

for gumbo
4 C low sodium chicken stock
7 oz okra chopped
1/4 C chopped flat leaf parsley leaves and stems
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp dry thyme
black pepper

to finish
3/4 lbs large shrimp
3 C cooked rice
chopped parsley

Heat an 8 quart dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat until very hot. Generously salt and pepper the duck legs then add them to the pot, skin side down. Add the sausage slices around the duck in a single layer and allow to brown. Flip the sausage slices as they brown then flip the duck legs when they no longer stick to the pan. Transfer the sausage to a plate as they finish browning then transfer the duck legs when they are nice and brown on both sides.

The pan should now have about 1 tablespoon of fat rendered from the sausages and duck. If there is more, drain the excess off into a ramekin and set aside. To make the mirepoix, add the onions and celery along with a generous pinch of salt and saute until soft and translucent. Add the two bell peppers, garlic and chili pepper of your choice and continue to saute until the onions are starting to caramelize and the bell peppers are nice and soft. Take the pot off the heat and set aside.

Now we’re going to make the roux. What we’re doing here is caramelizing the flour until it’s dark chocolate brown. To avoid burning it, it needs constant supervision and stirring which will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Don’t use a non-stick pan or silicon utensil to stir as they are typically not safe to use at temperatures as high as this mixture will get. I’d recommend using a stainless steel whisk or a flat edged wooden paddle. If you use a wooden paddle, be prepared to have it scorch a little. Lastly be very careful not to splash this on yourself as it’s a guaranteed trip to the ER if you do.

Color of Roux

Add any reserved fat you have from the duck and sausage to a 1/4 C measuring cup and top off with duck fat, clarified butter, or lard. Do not use regular butter, as the milk solids in it will burn. Add the fat to to a medium sized sauce pan and heat over medium low heat until very hot. Add the flour and immediately start stirring. Be sure you keep every part of the roux moving so it does not burn. As long as it’s not smoking you can turn the heat up in small increments but turn it down if you start to see smoke. As the roux reaches a medium brown color (like beef gravy), turn the heat down a little to slow the process down. You want to get it to the color of dark chocolate (photo above), but there is a very fine line between that and burnt.

As soon as it’s reached the desired color, remove the pot from the heat and stir in some of the mirepoix to bring the temperature down quickly. Once it’s cool enough to touch, have a taste. If it tastes bitter, you need to throw it out and start over. Add the roux and chicken stock into the large pot with the rest of the mirepoix. Put the pot over a medium high flame and whisk until the roux is dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.

Turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer and add the duck, sausage and the rest of the gumbo ingredients. Cover with a lid set slightly ajar to allow steam to escape and simmer until the duck is tender (about 1- 1 1/2 hours).

In the meantime, cook the rice, and peel and devein the shrimp.

When the duck is tender, remove the legs from the gumbo and allow them to cool enough to handle. Take the meat off the bones and add it back to the pot. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper as needed and adjust the spiciness with cayenne pepper. Turn the heat up and bring the gumbo to a boil then add the shrimp, stirring to submerge. Cover immediately and remove the pot from the heat. The residual heat will gently cook the shrimp to perfection in about 7 minutes (use less time if your shrimp are small).

To serve, put a small amount of rice in the bottom of a shallow bowl and top with the gumbo. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with hot sauce and bread.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    I love the way you manage to take elements from a dish and make them yours Marc. This looks lovely and rich and I can imagine the strength of the flavours being quite intense. I also had no idea there were so many considerations in getting the roux right.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    I love the way you manage to take elements from a dish and make them yours Marc. This looks lovely and rich and I can imagine the strength of the flavours being quite intense. I also had no idea there were so many considerations in getting the roux right.

  • http://www.figandcherry.com/ Christie @ Fig & Cherry

    Gorgeous combination Marc. I’m a fan of smoked meats, seafood and rice too and this is a lovely way to combine them. I’m so interested to try all these new foods when I’m in NYC later in the year.

  • http://www.figandcherry.com Christie @ Fig & Cherry

    Gorgeous combination Marc. I’m a fan of smoked meats, seafood and rice too and this is a lovely way to combine them. I’m so interested to try all these new foods when I’m in NYC later in the year.

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com/ Stacey Snacks

    Looks very authentic.

    Did you bring home andouille and Cajun spices?

    • marc

      Nope, I contemplated it, but the logistics of getting an icepack etc just seemed like too much work.

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com Stacey Snacks

    Looks very authentic.

    Did you bring home andouille and Cajun spices?

    • marc

      Nope, I contemplated it, but the logistics of getting an icepack etc just seemed like too much work.

  • http://www.angelasfoodlove.com/ Angela

    This looks absolutely delicious. Great description on how to make the roux. I like the idea of starting with the duck and sausage fat. Despite the country look and feel of this dish, it clearly requires a lot of thought and attention to master. Great post!

  • http://www.angelasfoodlove.com Angela

    This looks absolutely delicious. Great description on how to make the roux. I like the idea of starting with the duck and sausage fat. Despite the country look and feel of this dish, it clearly requires a lot of thought and attention to master. Great post!

  • http://cookappeal.blogspot.com/ chef E

    After years of being in charge of making the duck confit at a restaurant, I had turned my eyes from eating it…but you might just have restored my taste buds with this…glad you had such a great experience in Louisiana…I am enjoying your journey and dishes…

  • http://cookappeal.blogspot.com chef E

    After years of being in charge of making the duck confit at a restaurant, I had turned my eyes from eating it…but you might just have restored my taste buds with this…glad you had such a great experience in Louisiana…I am enjoying your journey and dishes…

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ elra

    Such a nice present to bring from New Orleans. Thank you!
    Cheers,
    elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com elra

    Such a nice present to bring from New Orleans. Thank you!
    Cheers,
    elra

  • http://www.elizabethsedibleexperience.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth F.

    One Word:

    A-MAZING!

  • http://www.elizabethsedibleexperience.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth F.

    One Word:

    A-MAZING!

  • http://lemonbasil.blogspot.com/ oaklyrhodes

    WOW… I’m always hunting for that really deep, rich, meaty flavor, too. That roux looks like it does the trick, and the duck fat! Oh my. You’ve got me hooked.

  • http://lemonbasil.blogspot.com oaklyrhodes

    WOW… I’m always hunting for that really deep, rich, meaty flavor, too. That roux looks like it does the trick, and the duck fat! Oh my. You’ve got me hooked.

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/2009/03/tapas-and-a-sunset.html Holly

    It looks really good, I might have to try this. So you did not use any file? I think taking the roux so dark takes us out of our comfort zone but you prove that it can be done.

    • marc

      Nope no filé. From my understanding filé was used as a thickener in winter when okra wasn’t available and it’s typically a one or the other kind of thing.

      I don’t know if it was the heat coming off the pan or what, but I was sweating as I watched the roux get darker and darker.

      • Therese

        You are correct. One does not use file with gumbo-based gumbo (hahahha), although the poultry and sausage gumbo usually is for winter and does not have okra, therefore it has file for thickener.

        (Gumbo zherbes in spring during Lent, seafood gumbo in fall, chicken and andouille gumbo in winter. Good times.)

      • Therese

        Also, my family comes from the River Parishes rather than deeper into bayou country, so I can only rarely take these super dark roux with gumbo! Maybe for squirrel or duck jambalaya…. ;)

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/2009/03/tapas-and-a-sunset.html Holly

    It looks really good, I might have to try this. So you did not use any file? I think taking the roux so dark takes us out of our comfort zone but you prove that it can be done.

    • marc

      Nope no filé. From my understanding filé was used as a thickener in winter when okra wasn’t available and it’s typically a one or the other kind of thing.

      I don’t know if it was the heat coming off the pan or what, but I was sweating as I watched the roux get darker and darker.

      • Therese

        You are correct. One does not use file with gumbo-based gumbo (hahahha), although the poultry and sausage gumbo usually is for winter and does not have okra, therefore it has file for thickener.

        (Gumbo zherbes in spring during Lent, seafood gumbo in fall, chicken and andouille gumbo in winter. Good times.)

      • Therese

        Also, my family comes from the River Parishes rather than deeper into bayou country, so I can only rarely take these super dark roux with gumbo! Maybe for squirrel or duck jambalaya…. ;)

  • http://whiteonricecouple.com/blog/ White On Rice Couple

    Ahhh, the duck fat just takes it over the top. We’re right with you on the seafood, smokey meats and rice (as long as that also includes rice noodles ;) Gotta have our noodles) Very nice gumbo. Sounds perfect for today’s rain. Todd.

  • http://whiteonricecouple.com/blog/ White On Rice Couple

    Ahhh, the duck fat just takes it over the top. We’re right with you on the seafood, smokey meats and rice (as long as that also includes rice noodles ;) Gotta have our noodles) Very nice gumbo. Sounds perfect for today’s rain. Todd.

  • http://www.slim-shoppin.com/ Jennifer

    That looks so good! I’ve actually never tried duck in my whole life!

    My husband has had it in restaurants, but I’ve always been nervous about buying it and cooking with it. I think I could make this!

  • http://www.slim-shoppin.com Jennifer

    That looks so good! I’ve actually never tried duck in my whole life!

    My husband has had it in restaurants, but I’ve always been nervous about buying it and cooking with it. I think I could make this!

  • http://foodgoesinmouth.com/ Caleb

    Fantastic. I’d been contemplating making gumbo since the market across the street started carrying andouille. Now this gives me great inspiration for using the goose fat I have stored in the freezer. I’ll have to check the local seafood offerings and see what happens.

    Thanks for kickin’ my head into gear.

  • http://foodgoesinmouth.com Caleb

    Fantastic. I’d been contemplating making gumbo since the market across the street started carrying andouille. Now this gives me great inspiration for using the goose fat I have stored in the freezer. I’ll have to check the local seafood offerings and see what happens.

    Thanks for kickin’ my head into gear.

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    This sounds intensely flavoured. I’ve actually got a tub of duck fat languishing in the freezer (one of those “ah why not” purchases). I’ve always had a thing for New Orleans, I don’t know why as I’ve never been there or anything, but this definitely appeals :)

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    This sounds intensely flavoured. I’ve actually got a tub of duck fat languishing in the freezer (one of those “ah why not” purchases). I’ve always had a thing for New Orleans, I don’t know why as I’ve never been there or anything, but this definitely appeals :)

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Your gumbo looks delicious! Making roux is nerve-wracking fun. (If you’re interested: The book Gumbo Tales was a great read with a look at many, various gumbo styles.)

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Your gumbo looks delicious! Making roux is nerve-wracking fun. (If you’re interested: The book Gumbo Tales was a great read with a look at many, various gumbo styles.)

  • http://www.shesimmers.com/ Leela

    I tell ya, that duck fat roux is sexy (and I usually cringe when people describe food as sexy!). I love duck fat and, in fact, just blogged yesterday about how I make and collect duck fat for different uses. Roux is a *brilliant* way to incorporate this delicious fat into your cooking. I’d never thought of it. Thanks for the idea.

  • http://www.shesimmers.com/ Leela

    I tell ya, that duck fat roux is sexy (and I usually cringe when people describe food as sexy!). I love duck fat and, in fact, just blogged yesterday about how I make and collect duck fat for different uses. Roux is a *brilliant* way to incorporate this delicious fat into your cooking. I’d never thought of it. Thanks for the idea.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    duck fat for the roux. you mutha-fer, you…

    bad boy but soooooo good! i’m sure you had lots of leftovers, right. send some my way, please.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    duck fat for the roux. you mutha-fer, you…

    bad boy but soooooo good! i’m sure you had lots of leftovers, right. send some my way, please.

  • Pingback: A Glimpse At Process: First Draft Gumbo | Food Goes In Mouth()

  • http://liberalfoodie.blogspot.com/ LiberalFoodie

    I tried this last night and the husband and I both loved it. I made some simple changes. Instead of chilli peppers, I used chili powder. And rather than duck legs and andouille, I used duck sausage from a local meat butcher. I skipped bay leaves, not on purpose but it all worked out perfectly.

    I was tad worried about the roux making process and learned from you that it’s not too hard as long as I keep a close eye on the stove.

    Thanks for the gumbo recipe and the step by step process. It was magnificent.

  • http://liberalfoodie.blogspot.com LiberalFoodie

    I tried this last night and the husband and I both loved it. I made some simple changes. Instead of chilli peppers, I used chili powder. And rather than duck legs and andouille, I used duck sausage from a local meat butcher. I skipped bay leaves, not on purpose but it all worked out perfectly.

    I was tad worried about the roux making process and learned from you that it’s not too hard as long as I keep a close eye on the stove.

    Thanks for the gumbo recipe and the step by step process. It was magnificent.

  • Pingback: Crab Gumbo | Food Goes In Mouth()

  • http://funfoodcook.wordpress.com/ Funfoodcook

    I made this last nite, with some changes. It was great.

    – To get a smokey flavor, I use smoke bacon end pieces to make the fat instead of duck fat or using very hot oil
    This fat is then use to cook the vegetable, meat and roux all
    – I do not like the tomatoes flavor so I drop the tomatoes paste from the original recipe
    – I use fresh thyme instead of dry
    – I used organic mushroom stock instead of chicken stock. Organic line make a different with me because I like it with less salt.

  • http://funfoodcook.wordpress.com/ Funfoodcook

    I made this last nite, with some changes. It was great.

    – To get a smokey flavor, I use smoke bacon end pieces to make the fat instead of duck fat or using very hot oil
    This fat is then use to cook the vegetable, meat and roux all
    – I do not like the tomatoes flavor so I drop the tomatoes paste from the original recipe
    – I use fresh thyme instead of dry
    – I used organic mushroom stock instead of chicken stock. Organic line make a different with me because I like it with less salt.

  • Pingback: Gumbo « Fun.Food.Cook()

  • http://culinaryschoolnewyorkny.com/ becklund

    Cool how you experimented with the various fats to make the roux, I always use canola oil and take to just beyond hershey’s chocolate color. I’ll have to experiment some with different fats. Thanks!

    • Therese

      Traditionally LA roux is made with lard, so any fat can do. I’ve had good (and delicious) results with rice bran oil. :9

  • http://culinaryschoolnewyorkny.com/ becklund

    Cool how you experimented with the various fats to make the roux, I always use canola oil and take to just beyond hershey’s chocolate color. I’ll have to experiment some with different fats. Thanks!

    • Therese

      Traditionally LA roux is made with lard, so any fat can do. I’ve had good (and delicious) results with rice bran oil. :9

  • Spinachtiger

    I made an authentic roux only once. We did it outside because it will seriously smell up a house. My clothes and hair were proof of that. But, it delivered the right flavor that keeps you going back to fill up the bowl. The duck fat is a great idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1836794847 Kielo Ford

    the trick to making a good roux, is FIRST, make sure the babies are asleep and take the phone off the hook. Give the Roux your full undivided attention. Yes I have been making Roux that long, and those that taught me, even longer… back when you took the phone off the hook and ya didn’t have to answer the door cause everyone came to the back door….that mattered.

  • Fwmosher

    I just turned 70, and have tackled tons of exotic recipes of many cultures, but I am just realizing that I only used okra once, so it must have been for a gumbo, and I tried to grow it up here in Canada, but not possible. Anyway, the longest recipe I have ever printed off, and I am going to follow it! Thank you.

  • Kpanushka

    I am very excited to make this! It looks awesome :) Im wondering if you could also add other types of seafood along with the duck and shrimp; such as lump crab meat… I’m a big seafood lover and am wondering what else you could put in? Thanks again and I really enjoy your site!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks! Yep, you can add just about any kind of seafood you want. I love
      dropping some freshly shucked oysters straight into the bowl and pouring the
      hot gumbo right on top. The residual heat cooks the oyster and the juices
      flavor the gumbo.

  • http://twitter.com/Nola2Nooga Where ‘yat? NOLA

    I want som’a dat!

  • JaynePenelope

    I just ran across your recipe for Gumbo; it surprises me that lately everyone is calling Gumbo cajun. Gumbo is an African word, and okra is an African vegetable. Cajun are from Canada and have nothing to do with Africa; please correct this since there seems to be a blending of cajun and creole to the point that one forgets that Creole have African blood and histories.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Jayne, thanks for your note. I’m aware of the Acadian backgrounds of the Cajun people and that the term “Gumbo” is a West African term referring to okra. I never said otherwise. What I did say is that this particular Gumbo is Cajun style. Making roux is a French technique, and the dark roux in this version of gumbo has Cajun origins. How can this be you ask? As you probably know the Cajun and Creole communities intermingled as did their cuisine. As such there are many Creole dishes that are also made by Cajuns and Cajun dishes that are made by Creoles. I appreciate constructive criticism, but please check your facts.

  • JaynePenelope

    Thanks for your response, but I’m sensitive to this issue because a Cajun chef said on the Food Network that Cajuns invented Gumbo! Not possible. My family are from Louisiana Creoles and it’s highly personal for me. It only starts small and before you know it… so, forgive me if I seemed to be criticizing you. I love all of your recipes

  • TJ

    How did I miss this recipe the first time? I grew up in Louisiana, been around a LOT of gumbo and it looks really good to me. I’ll definitely make it at least once during this cold weather.

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