I count myself extremely privileged to have worked twice at the mythical K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans. Having started to read about Paul Prudhomme long before I opened Mistress Augustine’s in 1981, it was on an insane and lucky impulse that I wrote to him, telling him honestly that my bank manager would lend me the money to get there, but that I would not be able to afford the normally charged fee. That fee at the time charged to the CIA, [Culinary Institute of America] was $6000 USD.
This generous and charismatic man wrote back, saying ‘Come’. Travelling halfway around the world clutching those simple words in my hand in 1984, it was hard not to wonder if I was setting forth on some great Orwellian joke. It was for me the start of a great bond between the people of that restaurant, further cemented by another visit in 1988.
There are many common misconceptions about Cajun food. It is not sophisticated restaurant food. It is the food of the people, mainly poor people where many hands would have been available to chop and cut. This is intensely flavoursome food, not always loaded with chilli – it uses all the local regional produce, much of which is readily available in Australia. On my first visit, the then vice president of America waited in line with hundreds of others, chef showed not favouritism to fame or wealth. Sadly, Chef Paul Prudhomme died two years ago and K-Pauls closed last year, but Prudhomme’s food lives on, especially at Gabrielle’s in New Orleans.
The many hands that would have originally prepared this food makes it expensive for restaurants, and in Australia, there have been few restaurants who have done this wonderful food the credit it deserves. In South Australia there are a few weeks where the planets align and allof the traditional ingredients that go into a true gumbo are available. That time is about now!
So this recipe is Gumbo with dirty rice….wine match made in heaven Zinfandel, and not a current vintage.
AO 1 FEBRUARY 2023
LEFT THE LATE CHEF PAUL PRUDHOMME AND RIGHT ME ANN OLIVER
The Black Roux, essential to the gumbo, so difficult and foreign to our cooking, and mostly avoided by exponents here. Don’t be disappointed if you have a couple of failures, it’s extremely difficult, but Gumbo without it, simply isn’t Gumbo.
The best book for an overall and authentic look at Cajun food is ‘Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen’ published by William Morrow and Company Inc., New York. Unfortunately we are not able to buy Chef’s prepared blackening powder in Adelaide, but as with many things here, the subsitutes are not unreasonable. Chef’s spice range goes under the trade name ‘Louisiana Cajun Magic’. Mirlitons are knows to us as Chokos, and the recipes in Chefs books are the only recipes I have ever tasted where chokos actually become acceptable. Green onions are spring onions to us. Don’t be afraid to substitute, use prawns, yabbies and our wonderful blue swimmer crabs.
So, as Chef would have said, ‘Good eating’
200ml vegetable oil
120g plain flour
500ml veal or meat stock
wok or similar
long handled flexible whisk
Place your wok on high heat, add the oil, and as soon as the oil is hot add the flour
and whisking constantly, bringing the edges back into the middle of the pan. You will see the roux going through all of the stages from light-brown, medium-brown, red-brown and finally black. Just keep stirring but remember if your roux starts to show specs of burnt, and not even colour you will more than likely have to start again.
You will notice as you pass from the lighter to the darker stages, the roux will change slightly, and the oil may start to spit, keep stirring. As soon as you have reached black, whisk in the stock, standing well back from the burst of steam, and immediately tip it into the bowl to stop further cooking.
The Black Roux keeps quite well refrigerated in a sealed container, so it can easily be made in advance. Wise advice because it can be a bastard and best to get out of the way.
get ready to chop
GET READY IN ADVANCE
1 whole roast duck, boned and shredded click here
800g broken Australian green prawn meat, thawed in salt water and dried on paper towel
250g polish sausage or similar, skinned and chopped
200g unsalted butter
1kg onions, peeled and finely chopped
50g [6 large cloves of garlic], peeled and very finely chopped
4 Bird’s Eye chillies, very finely chopped
10g Maldon sea salt
5g freshly ground white pepper
6 corn on the cob, cleaned and corn cut from the cob
3 large red capsicums, cleaned, de-veined and chopped
1 green capsicum, cleaned, de-veined and chopped
4 sticks of celery, peeled and diced
2 medium egg plant [about 500g], peeled, diced salted and rinsed in cold water, dried on paper towel
500grams okra, finely sliced – [if out of season buy preserved or dried okra]
1/2 a bunch of thyme, stalked and finely chopped
1/2 a bunch of marjoram, stalked and finely chopped
20g smoked hot paprika
2 fresh bay leaves
1200g of a combination of chicken and crustacean stock
200g of black roux
Place the butter into the large pan, melt on low heat, and add the onion, salt, pepper and garlic, cooking stirring frequently until golden brown. finely slice the chillies and add to the onions and garlic. Add the sausage to the pan.
Add the corn and capsicum ad celery to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, then stir through the eggplant and okra and continue cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes.
Stir through the herbs and smoked paprika and cook gently for five minutes before adding the black roux and stir until it is wormed through. Add the stock a little at a time until fully incorporated and cook gently for another 10 minutes.
Stir through the prawn meat and when it is cooked through add the shredded duck meat. The gumbo reheats well but it needs to be done on very low heat.
500g medium or long grain rice
100g unsalted butter
5g Maldon sea salt
1 bay leaf
750g dirty crustacean stock 
pre heat oven to 225°C
Using a heavy based pan with a lid , put the butter in the pan and place it on low heat. When the butter is melted add the rice and salt, turn the heat up to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the rice goes opaque.
Add the stock and stir until the stock comes to the boil. Cover with the lid and put the rice into the oven. Set a timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes take the rice from the oven, lift the lid and stir over the rice, the recover with the lid but slightly ajar.
 Dirty stock is the cloudy stock from the bottom of the stock pot.
 A le Crueset pan and lid or similar is perfect for this rice, but failing that you can cover the rice with the foil. However, a heavy lid works on two counts, cooks the rice perfectly and keeps it warmer until you are ready to serve.
Want to do Chef Paul Prudhomme’s cornbread as well or both click here for the cornbread recipe.