New Orleans, here we come.
A good gumbo takes time, a great gumbo takes longer…
Whether it’s a stew or soup-like, there is nothing more satisfying than a hearty bowl of Gumbo..
Gumbo is truely Cajun and the official state dish of Louisiana; one that celebrates their heritage of sustenance off the land. There are numerous ingredients that can be added to a gumbo, but it's really all about utilizing what’s on hand. Chicken, duck + rabbit are the usual meats, along with ham and sausage. A seafood gumbo can contain shrimp, crab and oysters. However, the basics ingredients used in any gumbo are the “holy trinity” consisting of onion, celery and green peppers, thickened with a dark roux.
Additionally, the make up of a Cajun Gumbo is the use of heritage ingredients such as the African vegetable okra, together with the cooking influences of local Choctaw Indians, French, German and Spanish settlers. The addition of tomatoes is more Creole and not of Cajun influence. I believe the addition of tomatoes with all the other ingredients in the gumbo pot provides a wonderful mix of culture and full flavor. With such a rich culture as Louisiana has it is important to note that the preparing of a gumbo goes far beyond the making of this ‘stew’ and really brings together the community.
This new kind of gumbo may just be stepping back to the Cajun way - with everyone contributing to the pot for the goodess of the stew.
A good gumbo takes time, a great gumbo takes longer.
So what’s the hurry? I learned this lesson first hand from some good Cajun friends who take the better part of a day assembling, cooking and stirring the gumbo pot. Results of this time honored patience is a great ol’ time exchanging conversation and stories with friends along with a brat or two and some chilled long necks until the gumbo is served.
Gumbo Recipe | Adapted from Gather ‘round the Grill
Makes 8-10 servings | recipe Chef George Hirsch
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces; or substitute 4 boneless thighs or breasts
1 pound andouille or smoked sausage, chopped
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon thyme, sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup okra, fresh or frozen, sliced
1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 teaspoons gumbo file powder dissolved in 1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons Italian (flat leaf) parsley, rough choppedf
Fresh ground black pepper
Heat a large soup pot to a medium temperature. Add olive oil and chicken and cook on all sides until light brown.
Add sausage and brown. Add butter, melt then add flour and cook for 10 minutes stirring until the roux (flour & butter) is light brown.
Add the onion, and cook until a light golden color, stirring occasionally. Add the green bell pepper, green onion, celery, and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the canned tomatoes, chicken or vegetable broth, parsley, hot sauce, thyme, bay leaves, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Bring the gumbo to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove chicken and reserve until cool. If using bone-in chicken remove meat from chicken bones and chop chicken meat into 1/2 inch pieces and return meat to soup pot. Simmer gently for 2 additional hours.
Remove bay leaves, add okra and simmer ten minutes. Add shrimp five minutes before serving. Mix in the dissolved gumbo file.
Serving suggestion: Serve with a scoop of steamy hot rice, top with additional parsley and chopped green onions.
Note: Gumbo file can be found in the spice section of your supermarket.