Category Archives: Creole/Cajun

Gumbo Ya-Ya

One of my favorite culinary destinations is New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is a melting pot of many immigrant cultures, but the French influence is quite apparent all around the city, but especially in the French Quarter. From the beignets at Cafe du Monde to escargot at Galatoire’s, the French culture is a major influence on their cuisine. And of course Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, the last day to eat rich and party before fasting for lent. Today, we celebrate Mardi Gras and it’s the perfect reason to share my gumbo recipe.

Gumbo is one of my favorite New Orleans dishes because it is delicious, spicy, hearty and full of great flavors. The key to a good gumbo is slow-cooked dark roux (a thickener made with butter and flour). In this recipe, the roux takes about an hour to cook. The original recipe for Gumbo Ya-Ya was created by the late Paul Prudhomme, who was an amazing New Orleans chef. This gumbo has chicken and andouille sausage (a firm Cajun sausage full of great spices), but if you can’t find andouille sausage, you can alway substitute Louisiana hot or mild links. This is not a quick recipe, but completely worth it in the end. I aways reserve making gumbo for special occasions and there’s no better time than Mardi Gras. Enjoy!

Gumbo Ya-Ya

Serving Size 4-6

2 lbs of organic chicken thighs

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or other neutral oil

10 cups of water

1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces

1 stalk of celery, cut in 3 pieces

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter

3/4 cup of Sonora wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 bell pepper, small dice

1 sweet onion, small dice

1 celery stalk, small dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Creole Seasoning  (can be store bought)

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of chili powder

1/4 teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, more to taste

2 andouille sausages or Louisiana smoked hot links (about 10 ounces), cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices

1/2 teaspoon of file powder

3 cups of steamed long-grain rice, converted

Chopped parsley

Louisiana hot sauce for serving (optional)

1. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with a generous amount of Kosher salt on the skin side. Heat a large pot, preferably enamel coated cast-iron, to medium-high heat. Add the oil. Place chicken thighs in the pot, skin-side down. Sprinkle the other side of the chicken with more Kosher salt. Sear the chicken skin until it gets golden and crispy (about 5-7 minutes). Turn the chicken thighs over and cook for another 5 minutes.


2. Remove the chicken thighs and place on a plate. Pour the chicken grease into a small Pyrex bowl or a heat-proof bowl and reserve for later. You should have about a 1/4 cup.


3. Add the chicken thighs back to the pot, along with 10 cups of water, the carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a low simmer and place the lid on top. You will braise the chicken for about an hour.


4. Meanwhile, heat another large pot to low heat. Add the butter and the reserved chicken grease into the pot. Once the butter is completely melted, gradually add in the flour while stirring with a wooden spoon. You will continue to stir and cook the roux for about 1 hour until you get a dark chocolate color. Don’t get tempted to leave the roux unattended. It is important to constantly stir throughout the whole process.

5. Check on the chicken. It should be tender, almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken thighs using tongs, place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Quickly strain broth through a chinois (or a fine mesh sieve) into a large bowl and reserve the broth for the gumbo.


6. Once the roux is nice and dark, add all the diced bell peppers. Stir for 1 minute. Add the diced onions and celery, stir for another minute. Add the garlic and chopped thyme and stir for 15 more seconds.


7. Slowly add the broth to the roux mixture while stirring, two cups at a time, for a total of eight cups. (Save any remaining broth to thin out the gumbo later.) Add all the dry seasoning, bay leaf and the andouille sausage. Give it a good stir and bring to a boil.


8. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure you skim the fat on the surface.


9. While the gumbo is simmering, take the braised chicken and remove the meat off the bone, pulling it into to bite-sized shreds. Discard the bones.

10. After the gumbo has simmered for 30 minutes, add the file powder and the shredded chicken pieces. Add more broth or water if the broth is too thick. Give it gentle stir. Simmer for another 20 minutes.


11. Taste for seasoning and adjust as need.

12. To serve, ladle the gumbo into shallow bowls. Add some steamed rice into the gumbo and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top. Serve with your favorite Louisiana hot sauce.



Creole BBQ Shrimp

The first time I tried New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp, I expected grilled shrimp on the barbie, but tasted something completely different. The shrimp didn’t come off a grill and they weren’t coated in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce – instead, they were swimming in a delicious sauce made with butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and Creole seasoning. Essentially, they are a “peel and eat” shrimp dish in a spicy rich sauce. Since then, I’ve tried a few versions of this dish at different restaurants in New Orleans and BBQ shrimp has become one of my favorite Creole dishes.

Unfortunately I don’t live in New Orleans, so to fulfill my craving, I developed my own version of this recipe. It most closely resembles the BBQ shrimp dish I had at Mr. B’s Bistro, though with a couple of adjustments. At Mr. B’s, they don’t hold back on the heat or the butter, but in my version I cut the amount of butter used in half, and I also add fresh thyme and lots of garlic. You can add more heat if you like, but don’t reduce the butter any more than I did, as this amount will make a generous amount of sauce. Finally, in New Orleans they use gulf shrimp for this dish, but I recommend using local wild-caught shrimp with the shell and head on.

This dish is very easy to prepare and takes less than 15 minutes once all the prep is done. Serve with a French baguette or rice to sop up the delicious sauce. If you like shrimp, try this dish – it will become one of your favorites. Enjoy!

Creole BBQ Shrimp

Serves 2

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, divided
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoon of Creole seasoning (recipe follows) or store bought like Tony Chachere
1/2 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs of wild-caught shrimp or prawns (16-18 per pound), with shell and head on
Sea salt to taste
1 lemon, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 French baguette, toasted (or cooked long grain rice)
Tabasco sauce for serving, optional

1. Cut the butter into 16 equal pieces.

2. Heat a large stainless steel sauté pan to medium-low. Add 2 pieces of the cut butter (1 tablespoon) and heat until melted. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and sauté for one minute.


3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Creole seasoning, Cayenne pepper, black pepper and bay leaf. Stir well and increase the heat to medium-high.


4. Add all the shrimp into the pan and stir to coat. Cook for about 1 minute.


5. Push the shrimp to the back of the pan and whisk in the remaining butter, couple pieces at a time, until the sauce thickens.



6. Stir and cook for about 1 more minute. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Add the lemon slices and parsley and cook for 30 more seconds.


7. Serve with a toasted baguette or cooked rice.



Creole Seasoning

Yield 1/4 cup

2 tablespoon of sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Place all and ingredients into a glass mason jar. Secure a lid on top and shake until the mixture is combine. Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.