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Cajun Shrimp Soup (Gumbo Filé)

A mainstay of Cajun and Creole cooking, gumbo filé lends a woodsy, herbal sassafras flavor, with delicate tangy and peppery notes, to this soup. For a heartier soup that resembles a quick version of gumbo, ladle each serving of soup over a scoop of cooked long-grain rice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cups canned whole plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 tsp. gumbo filé powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Make the soup base
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When it is hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and bell pepper, and then add the chili, tomatoes, broth, thyme and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the flavors have blended, about 15 minutes.

Cook the shrimp
Add the shrimp and filé powder and cook just until the shrimp turn pink and opaque, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Soup, by Georgeanne Brennan (Oxmoor House, 2006).