Gameday Gumbo

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..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 truly Cajun and the official state dish of Louisiana; one that celebrates their heritage of sustenance off the land. I have on several occasions been part of a true Cajun 'Gumbo' party which is an all-day outdoor celebration. There is nothing like cooking a gumbo with a little outdoor flavor - especially if the meats or vegetables have been pre-grilled or smoked before being added to the gumbo pot. 

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 smoked 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 full flavored gumbo is a lighter version than the Cajun traditional, yielding to the heavier butter and flour versions making a more traditional stew or soup. However, the basics of broth and rice carry true and the rest is up to you. Make it seafood with crab, shrimp, or crawfish. Or, with chicken, duck or all vegetable.

George's Gumbo

Makes six servings | Adapted from George Hirsch Living it UP! cookbook.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 pound boneless chicken thighs, diced

1/2 pound smoked sausage (chorizo or kielbasa), chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 cup okra, fresh or frozen, sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon each, oregano, thyme, sage

1 Tablespoon fresh parsley

1 Tablespoon hot sauce, or more to taste

2 teaspoons gumbo file powder, dissolved in 1/4 cup chicken broth (for thickening)

Fresh ground black pepper


1 pound large (26-30) size shrimp, peeled & devein, save shells for broth

2 cups cooked steamed white or brown rice

Heat a large soup pot to a medium temperature. Add the olive oil and chicken, and smoked sausage. Add the onion, and cook until a light golden color, stirring occasionally. Add the green bell pepper, green onion, celery, and garlic; cook for 2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, chicken broth, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, hot sauce, and fresh ground black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Add the okra and gumbo file. Simmer for at least an additional 35 to 45 minutes. Additional time of slow simmering will intensify flavors.

Before serving, add shrimp and cook for 5-8 minutes until done. 

Serving suggestion: serve with a scoop of steamy hot rice

Note: If using shrimp, cook shrimp shells in chicken broth for ten minutes to extract additional flavor, strain shells and use broth.

Gumbo file can be found in the spice section of your market.