Quick Weeknight Sole and Sausage Gumbo
Once upon a time we made Gulf seafood gumbo for four on a twilit beach in Corpus Christi with only a butane burner and cookware borrowed from a rental kitchen. Grey-blue crests and frothy white caps crashing behind us, visibility at that time of night zero save a flashlight and the dome light of our truck bed, crude sand walls built to prevent the struggling, wind-whipped flames from going out.
The inexplicably successful bowls of steaming hot gumbo were well-earned (and quickly finished) — at that moment, seriously superior to every other gumbo, anywhere, anytime. Forevermore, it will be a meal that instantly transports us back to that night on that beach.
Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday, if you prefer — falls on the last day of February this year. Because it’s a weeknight, I’m sharing a quick-fix version of our New Orleans classic that goes from cutting board to table in just about 30 minutes.
The secret? Hack the roux. I know, I know — the roux makes the gumbo! While we normally adhere strictly to tradition, and favor a deeply dark and nutty roux, this quick and dirty method makes it possible to whip up a perfectly delicious pot for busy evenings or last-second hankerings (it happens).
For those of you who do have the time, or otherwise couldn’t bear to eat an inauthentic gumbo, here is how I make our dark roux: Warm the oil in your pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to form a paste. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking frequently, to create a rich brown roux, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. (Really keep on eye on for signs of burning. Burnt roux = bad.) Reduce the heat a touch before stirring in the veg, then scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon to pull up those flavors. (If you prefer a lighter roux, simply cut down the time, at least until it is golden brown to ensure the flour rawness is cooked off.)
Either will satisfy your craving for creole cuisine, and do so in a slightly more nutritious manner. Both wins!
What’s in it for me?
Sole is high in protein and low in fat. At only 77 calories and 1 gram fat, a 3-ounce raw portion (the amount in each of the 4 servings of this gumbo recipe) provides about 16 g of high-quality complete protein. This serving also brings about 40% of your daily need for the antioxidant selenium, is an excellent source of vitamin B12, and is a good source of vitamin D, niacin (B3) and phosphorous.
Per ounce (the amount in each gumbo serving), leaner turkey kielbasa contains only about 45 calories and 1 gram saturated fat (3 g total fat), plus 4 g complete protein. It does, however, contain roughly 275 mg sodium, just over 10% of the recommended DV — if needed, seek out a sausage that is labeled “low-sodium.”
Okra is rich in vitamin K, and offers a small amount of non-dairy calcium. Bell peppers are among the mildest of peppers, as they contain zero capsaicin. The yellow variety top the bells for vitamin C at more than 85% of your DV per ounce (though, red offers 60%), and the red variety is tops for vitamin A at nearly 20% per ounce.
Sulfur from onion and garlic promotes synthesis of glutathione — a powerful antioxidant critical in controlling inflammation and boosting your immune system. Parsley is a source of dietary nitrates that help improve blood pressure and boost blood flow to muscles during exercise; while thyme is among the fresh herbs highest in antioxidants.
Homemade chicken stock is low in calories, fat and sodium, is another good source of the B vitamin niacin, and offers small amounts of phosphorous, potassium, and copper. Stock is also naturally hydrating and can help replenish depleted stores of electrolytes, and research suggests that it may serve as a mild anti-inflammatory.
Tuck into a bowl of this healthier, corner-cutting gumbo (or the authentic, longer-cooking dark-roux version) tonight, this weekend, or next week for (not-so) Fat Tuesday. Then go ahead and devour it on the beach, at the table, or anywhere you darn well please.
Tell me… Do you have any instantly transporting recipes? And which do you prefer: gumbo or jambalaya?
- 2 Tbsp canola (or olive) oil
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on your heat preference
- 4 ounces (1/4 lb) spicy turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick half moons (see HGN Notes)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose or Wondra flour (use an equal amount of arrowroot starch for GF)
- 4 cups homemade chicken or veg stock, or low-sodium canned chicken or veg broth (see HGN Notes)
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs, or about 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 12 ounces (3/4 lb) fresh sole (or tilapia) fillets, patted dry
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, about 2 Tbsp reserved to garnish
- 1 cup frozen okra, thawed (see HGN Notes for tips to use fresh)
- 1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the red and yellow bell peppers, onion, celery, garlic and cayenne. Cook the veg over moderately high heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour (or arrowroot starch) on top of the mixture, and stir to evenly coat. Gradually add the stock/broth, stirring constantly; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, over moderate heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the fish fillets, scallions and okra to the saucepan, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the fish is opaque and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes longer. Discard the thyme sprigs if using fresh. Stir in the parsley, then taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Garnish with reserved scallions, and serve immediately. Nice on its own, but also good with a scoop of warm rice or other whole grain, or a piece of crusty bread. Leftovers keep for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator, or for 4 to 6 months in the freezer.
If you have fresh whole okra pods: Before beginning to cook the gumbo, slice off only the very tips of the okra, then combine the pods with 1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar and 1 cup cool water in a medium bowl or glass dish; soak 1 hour (helps reduces the ‘slime’). Drain, rinse and pat the okra dry, then slice thinly on the diagonal to expose as much of the interior as possible. Add to the gumbo as directed in the recipe with the fish and scallions toward the end of cooking.
+ Traditional kielbasa -- typically a pork-beef combo -- is fine if you don't have/want the turkey version (but adds roughly an extra 50 calories + 6 g fat per serving). If you're looking for classic Creole flavor, try andouille sausage. OR omit the sausage altogether!
+ Substitute the sole with any basic white fish, such as tilapia or flounder, even cod or halibut. (Cooking times will vary based on thickness of fish.)
+ Use peeled and deveined shrimp in place of or in addition to the fish. (I would add these at the same time as the fish if using both.)
+ Swap in seafood stock for the chicken/veg for a more pronounced flavor.
+ Like green bell peppers? Use those! Have oregano, but not thyme? Okay! Swap the veg and herbs for whatever you like best or have on hand.
+ Serve alone as a stew, or add a scoop of warm brown or white rice (or go wild with wild rice); barley, bulgur, quinoa, or any other whole grain you like; or with a hunk of warm bread, like my Rosemary Semolina (http://buff.ly/2l8vpjb), Whole Wheat-ish Ciabatta (http://buff.ly/2l8wCXR), or Rustic GF Dutch Oven Bread (http://buff.ly/2l8rhQk).
An HGN original.
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