(American Cajun-Creole meat and shellfish stew)
Gumbo, one of the most famous of Cajun-Creole dishes, acquired its name from quingombo, a Congolese word for okra. It came about through a fusion of French, African, Native American and Spanish influences in early Louisiana cuisine.
There are two main types of gumbo — those thickened with okra and those thickened with filé powder. This one uses okra.
6 to 8 servings
- Oil -- 2 to 3 tablespoons
- Andouille sausage (optional), sliced in rounds -- 1 pound
- Chicken (optional), cut up -- 2 to 3 pounds
- Oil -- 1/2 cup
- Flour -- 1 cup
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Onion, minced -- 1 cup
- Celery, minced -- 1 cup
- Green bell pepper, minced -- 1 cup
- Okra (optional), sliced into rounds -- 2 cups
- Garlic, minced -- 3 cloves
- Oregano, dried -- 2 teaspoons
- Thyme, dried -- 1 teaspoon
- Tomatoes (optional), chopped -- 1 cup
- Stock or water -- 7 cups
- Bay leaf -- 1 or 2
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Cayenne pepper (optional) -- 1/4 teaspoon
- Shrimp (optional), peeled and deveined -- 1 to 2 pounds
- Hot cooked rice -- 6 cups
- Heat the 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Brown the sausage and remove to paper towels to drain. Next brown the chicken pieces and remove to paper towels to drain. Set aside while you make the roux.
- Add enough oil to the skillet to make about 1/2 cup and reduce heat to very low. Stir in the flour and cook, whisking often, until the flour turns a rich reddish-brown color. This could take up to 45 minutes and is a crucial step in making gumbo. Do not let the flour burn. Remove to a bowl and set aside to cool. This is your roux.
- Meanwhile, heat another 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onions, celery and bell pepper and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the okra, garlic, oregano and thyme and saute for 3 or 4 more minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, if using, and cook to reduce the liquid somewhat, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the stock or water, bay leaf, salt, pepper and cayenne. Bring to a boil, and then rapidly whisk in the cooled roux a little at a time to avoid lumps.
- As soon as all the roux has been added and the stew has thickened, stir in the browned sausage and chicken and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
- In the last five minutes, stir in the shrimp, if using, and simmer until it is just cooked through. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning.
- Place a mound of hot rice in large individual serving bowls and ladle the gumbo over the rice. A little filé powder may be sprinkled over each serving.
Gumbo Notes and Variations
- Dark roux, a mixture of oil or lard and flour, acts as a further thickener. The mixture is cooked slowly over a low flame until it takes on a deep reddish-brown color and a nutty aroma. Roux can be used as a thickener in conjunction with okra or filé powder, or it can be used alone. Creole roux tends to be lighter in color than roux used by Cajuns.
- Okra Gumbo: Okra is used most often in summer gumbos made with seafood. Filé powder is rarely combined with an okra-based gumbo, but dark roux often is.
- Filé Gumbo: Filé is a powder made from the ground leaves of the sassafras tree. Originally used by the native Choctaw population in its cooking, filé gives a distinctive flavor to a gumbo. Filé should never be added to simmering or boiling liquid as it congeals into thick, gluey strands. Only add it to the gumbo after it has been removed from the flame. Or simply sprinkle it over each portion and stir in. Filé powder is usually added to meat gumbos, which are more common in the winter.
- Meats and Seafood: Gumbo usually contains a number of different meats, with smoked andouille sausage, tasso ham, chicken and shellfish being the most common. Add any combination you like, but the more you add, the better the flavor. Oysters can be added along with the shrimp to make an extra special meal. Winter gumbos sometimes contain game meats like duck, rabbit or squirrel.
- Tomatoes: Creole gumbo often contains tomatoes; Cajun gumbo leaves them out. The choice is yours.
- A handful of chopped scallions may be added toward the end of cooking time for additional flavor and color.
- Gumbo is usually served over rice, but there are recipes that call for it to be served over boiled potatoes or even potato salad!