Who Dat Makin’ Gumbo?

16 Feb

Gumbo is one of the signature foods of the Gulf Coast, and between the Superbowl, Mardi Gras, and the simple desire for good eating, there is plenty of gumbo being made this month. Artfully prepared by African-American cooks in the 18th and 19th centuries, this dish is flavored from the fusion of African, French and Spanish cultures and locally available foodstuffs—-red peppers, fish, shellfish, pork, poultry, and rice.

The dish is named from okra, the gently curving green pod that is native to Central Africa, arriving in this country via the slave trade. The name okra is from the Twi language of Ghana; it is also known as gumbo,which is derived from kingombo from Angola. This vegetable was frequently used in African soups and stews; enslaved Africans in the Carolinas called it okra; in New Orleans it was referred to as gumbo. Eventually the savory, stew like dish took on the name gumbo.

Today you may see the grocery tab adding up when gumbo is on your menu—as a single-pot recipe, the dish reflects the local market basket of ingredients from the Gulf coast which were not always pricey. For example, back in the day, if coastal weather conditions produced a seafood jubilee and easy fishing, folks found an abundance of seafood easy to catch and enjoy. Gumbo was made with ingredients on hand.

Now gumbo is not a last minute, in a hurry recipe. It takes, pre-planning, patience, and a dash of love—for what you’re cooking and the friends and family you’re cooking for. My friend shared her grandmother’s recipe with me and I’ve adapted if for folks who may not have cooked as long as Grandma Camille. Whether you’re in N’awlins, Mobile or Chicago a hot bowl of gumbo is good eating.

Gumbo. . . . . .If you prepare the vegetables in advance, remove them from the refrigerator about 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to use them.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups chopped celery

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped green pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced

11/2 tablespoons allspice

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon salt

1 quart fish stock

4 cups or 1 32-oz. carton chicken broth

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

3 bay leaves

1 lb. frozen crab claws

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

2 cups cooked smoked pork sausage slices

2 lbs. raw medium shrimp ( 41/50  count) peeled, deveined

1 cup okra slices

Gumbo filé

In large skillet or Dutch oven, combine oil, and flour, mixing with wire whisk until blended. Cook, stirring constantly over low heat until flour mixture darkens to rich brown color. Add celery, onion, and green pepper; continue cooking over low heat until tender. Stir in garlic and seasonings, except gumbo file. In large pot (approx. 12-qt.) combine vegetable mixture, fish stock, chicken brothand tomato paste, mixing until blended. Cover, cook over low heat 30 to 45 minutes. Stir in crab claws, chicken, and sausage; continue cooking 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in shrimp, and okra; continue cooking 3 to 4 minutes or just until shrimp are opaque. Serve with gumbo filé and rice.

Fish Stock

To make ahead, prepare as directed and refrigerate 1 to 2 days. If you’d like to hold longer, freeze.

41/2 cups cold water

Shells from 2 lbs. shrimp

2 tablespoons chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped onion

In 2-quart saucepan, combine ingredients; cook over low heat 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture simmers. Cover: continue cooking 45 minutes. Drain; discard shells.

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