The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:27 PM

Food Of The Day - Gumbo

Posted by Food Pear-ings


Gumbo is not a soup, nor is it a stew.
This traditional Louisiana favorite is a dish all on its own.
Gumbo is usually made with a variety of meats and fishes,
including chicken, sausage, shellfish (such as shrimp, crab and crayfish), and sometimes other meats. 
In addition, gumbo can contain multiple types of vegetables,
particularly the holy trinity (in cuisine, this refers to onions, bell peppers, and celery) and okra
Gumbo can also use various other seasonings and spices,
and there are probably enough recipes out there to have a different gumbo each day of the year.
Pot of Gumbo
 Gumbo is a thick dish, unlike a normal soup. 
It has large chunks of meat that are served with a thickened sauce. 
Traditionally, this sauce is thickened with the use of okra,
an African plant that adds a great taste and texture to the dish.
Also, when the okra is cooked, it lets off a gooey substance that helps to make the gumbo thick.

However, gumbo can also be thickened with the use of gumbo filé
which is comprised of the dried, ground leaves of the sassafras plant.
This seasoning can be used for flavor, and also to thicken the gumbo when okra is not used.

In addition, a roux can be used to thicken the gumbo. 
A roux is made by adding flour to oil or lard,
to which the other items are then added
when the roux has reached the consistency and color that is desired. 
A roux may be used exclusively to thicken the dish, or it may be used in conjunction with filé.
 Bowl of Gumbo

Types of Gumbo
As mentioned before, gumbo can be found in many varieties. 
Different mixtures and styles may be found in different areas,
and many cooks have their own personal recipes that make their gumbo special. 

Popular types of gumbo include seafood gumbo (using shellfish, without chicken or sausage),
crawfish gumbo (using only crayfish as a meat component),
traditional mixed gumbos, chicken gumbo, and many more variations.
You may also find gumbo that includes many less traditional ingredients,
such as oysters, duck, rabbit, and more.

Cooking Gumbo
Traditionally, gumbo is cooked in large pots, such as at crawfish boils. 
At home, gumbo can be cooked in a sizable pot on the stove. 
Gumbo is usually cooked over a long period of time, at a low heat,
to allow the products and flavors to mesh together, and create a deep, rich flavor. 
Good gumbos are often cooked over a period of hours, but the end product is rich in flavor,
and definitely worth the wait.
 Gumbo with Shrimp and Sausage

Serving Gumbo
Gumbo is served in scoops with large chunks of meat and vegetables, over rice
The rice soaks up the sauce, and imparts the flavor of the gumbo to the rice.
Gumbo is usually served just this way, over white rice,
and the ratio of sauce to rice may be altered,
from an almost dry pile of rice with mostly meat on top, to a very wet rice,
where the gumbo is more like a bowl of soup with rice.
Gumbo may be served just like this, often with bread, red beans, potato salad, or other additions,
and is often served with filé at the table,
for the guests to add according to their taste.

Gumbo Tips
Whether you thicken your gumbo with okra, filé, a roux, or a combination thereof,
be prepared to take some serious time when making your gumbo.
This is not an express dish.
If you dedicate your day to your gumbo, you will be repaid for your efforts.
If you use a roux, don't overcook the roux,
and don't use butter, as it will burn.
If you use gumbo filé, be sure that you and your guests appreciate the flavor.
  It is often best to use a roux as the main thickening agent in a gumbo containing filé,
as the flavor may not be attractive with the amount of filé necessary to thicken the gumbo alone.

Add what you like.
If you like shellfish, or chicken, or sausage, or turkey, or duck,
or any combination of meats, don't be afraid to add them.
Gumbo is all about having a tasty mouthful of flavors that you love,
so don't be timid when adding the goods.
Each bite of gumbo should contain all of the flavors you want, to a great gumbo will include lots of everything.  Don't stick with a traditional recipe; make it how you want to eat it!

Don't be afraid of the okra.
Okra is where gumbo got its name in the first place (from the west African term for okra, okingumbo),
and there is a reason it was used.
It has a nice vegetable flavor, a wonderful texture,
and will thicken your gumbo nicely, adding a gelatinous texture to your sauce,
and further enhancing the overall flavor and texture of the end product.
Okra can often be found at the grocery store, and and specialty food stores and farmer's markets.
It is a great addition.

New Orleans Style Seafood Gumbo 
What you will need:
1 pound okra, sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
1  small onion , chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound fresh oysters (You can leave in shell if desired)
1/2 pound crabmeat (crab legs can also be left with the shell on)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon sweet red bell pepper,chopped
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, diced
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoon paprika, ground
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground
2 quarts water or fish stock
1 bunch green onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Hot cooked long-grain white rice
Gumbo filé powder (on the side)

What you will need:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
NOTE: Always use equal amounts of oil and flour when making roux
You can make and store your roux up to one week ahead of time
or may be frozen

Making your Roux:
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, heat vegetable oil until hot
Add flour gradually, stirring or whisking to combine with the shortening or oil
Stir frequently for about 45 minutes or until dark brown
and gives off a nutty odor
Transfer it into your stockpot to start making your gumbo
Lets get cooking:
In a large frying pan, fry okra in 2 tablespoons oil for about 30 to 40 minutes
or until it ceases to "rope" (slimy strings connecting the okra)
 remove from heat and set aside

 In a large dutch oven,over medium-high heat,
melt the butter and fry the onions and celery about 5 minutes until translucent
Add the shrimp, oysters, garlic, and bell pepper; simmer 2  minutes
 Add tomatoes, parsley, and bay leaf, water or fish stock
add green onion, fried okra, prepared roux, and crabmeat
 Add remaining spices,salt and pepper to taste
 Let gumbo simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
Serve with hot rice, crackers and file on the side

This recipe should feed about six to eight people

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