When I first started this blog I was mainly cooking just for myself. As a result, many of the early recipes are designed to make just one or two servings. (I still find myself in this situation now occasionally, when Paul has an obligation in the evening which is pretty common during marching band season, AKA right now.) Many times I avoided recipes that had a lot of ingredients or seemed to take too long for just a meal or two.
Gumbo is something that I have avoided making at home for those reasons. It takes a long time, much of it spent trying to keep the roux from burning, and many recipes have ingredients lists a mile long. Despite those barriers, though, I couldn’t help myself–I needed a bowl of gumbo! And I’m happy to report that with just a little prep work and some pantry staples, you too can make just one or two servings of gumbo without slaving over the stove.
I’ve based the ingredients and much of the method on Alton Brown’s shrimp gumbo recipe, but you can substitute different proteins and adjust it to your own tastes. Aside from downsizing the amounts, there are two tricks to making this recipe work for one:
- Frozen vegetables. Like many Cajun and Creole dishes, gumbo starts with the Trinity: onion, celery and bell pepper. Since you only need a small amount for one serving of gumbo, you can chop up these veggies and store them (separately or mixed together) in the freezer! Once frozen you can pull out just what you need for one (or more) servings. Or, if you don’t want to do the work yourself, buy them at the salad bar or look for a premade frozen mix.
- Toasted flour. Having this shortcut on hand makes it super fast to achieve a penny-colored roux without hours of stirring. This part takes a little more work up front but you can make a large batch and store it in the fridge for several months. Plus, you can also use it as the basis for bechamel, mornay and any other sauce that depends on a combination of flour + fat.
Here’s the method (taken from this recipe): Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a ½ cup of flour in an ovenproof skillet and place in the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until toasted. Cool completely before using. Store leftovers in the fridge.
And now, the main event! Since the recipe is somewhat flexible, I’ve divided the ingredients list to make it a little easier to see your choices.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp toasted flour: Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a ½ cup of flour in an ovenproof skillet and place in the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until toasted. Cool completely before using. Store leftovers in the fridge.
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ¼ cup chopped celery
- ¼ cup chopped bell pepper (green is traditional, but I used red)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes (store the rest of the can in portions in the freezer)
- 1 medium fresh tomato, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup shrimp stock (if using shell-on shrimp): Place the shells and 1 ½ cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over low about 15 minutes until the liquid reduces a bit. Skim off any scum and strain out the shells before using.
- 14 medium raw shrimp, thawed if frozen, shelled and shells reserved
- 4 oz cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
- 1 smoked sausage such as andouille, sliced
- ½ cup chopped ham
- pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
- large pinch kosher salt
- dash black pepper
- dash dried thyme
- 1 small bay leaf
- dash cayenne pepper, optional
- ½ tsp filé powder, optional
- hot sauce, optional
- ½ scallion, sliced, optional
- cooked long-grain rice
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Whisk in the toasted flour. Cook for a minute or two until combined and the roux is the color of a penny. Be careful not to let it burn.
- Add the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 5-6 minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent. If you like things spicy, add a pinch of red pepper flakes after 4 minutes or so. (I like multiple layers of heat!)
- Stir in the tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne and bay leaf.
- Gradually add the stock, whisking constantly. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes. Add chicken, ham or sausage during the last few minutes to reheat.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the raw shrimp, if using (the residual heat in the pan will cook it through). Add the filé powder, if using, stirring constantly.
- Cover the pot and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning and add the hot sauce if desired. Serve with rice, garnished with the scallion.
*Nutrition facts calculated using shrimp