Goner for gumbo
By JEAN TELLER
Gumbo recipes are as varied as the cooks who prepare the Louisiana delicacy. You start with a roux (flour and oil or butter cooked to a dark brown), or not; you add cooked okra, or not; you thicken with file (powdered sassafras root), or not; and you add seafood (shrimp, crab, shellfish) or cooked chicken and smoked sausage. For gumbo, anything goes.
No one can quite agree on the dish’s history, either. While many mention African, French or Choctaw beginnings with German, Creole and Cajun additions, most food historians now point to the undeniable influence of the okra stews the West African people brought to the area around New Orleans in the mid-1700s. A language lesson finds that “okra” is “ki ngombo” in a West African dialect, a region known for okra stews. Okra is a thickening agent for gumbo.
Of course, this being Louisiana, the history doesn’t stop there. Sometime along the way, a French roux was adapted, adding flavor and texture. Native Americans, notably the Choctaw tribe, introduced file, another thickening agent. For another curve, the Choctaw word for “sassafras” is “kombo.”
One note: Gumbo aficionados don’t mix okra and file, though combining either with a roux is fine; they also don’t mix seafood and poultry, and, other than sausage or perhaps ham and other pork pieces, they don’t include red meat. Oh, and tomatoes are debatable; go without if possible.
The Cajuns-transplanted Acadians from Nova Scotia -began fishing the Gulf waters for shellfish and shrimp, thus adding their influence. The Germans settling the region threw smoked sausage into the pot, and then in recent years, the Creoles incorporated their love of spices. And there we have gumbo.
Murky history, I know, but taste gumbo and you’ll understand that a historical perspective isn’t really necessary in this instance. What’s important is what’s added to the stockpot.
Chicken and smoked sausage gumbo
1 pound smoked sausage, preferably Andouille, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
7 cups chicken stock
5 to 6 cups cooked rice
Garnish: Parsley and chopped green onion; file powder
In large saute pan, brown sausage over medium-high heat; remove and set aside.
Combine 1/2 cup flour and salt on waxed paper; lightly dredge chicken pieces in it.
Add 1/2 cup oil to saute pan; fry chicken until golden, about 7 minutes; add to sausage.
Make a roux: In large stockpot, over medium-high heat, heat remaining oil until very hot. Add remaining flour all at once, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and cook roux until medium in color.
Immediately stir in onion, celery and green pepper; turn off heat. (The hot roux will cook vegetables, and the cold vegetables will keep the roux from overcooking.) When vegetables are tender, adjust heat back to medium. Add garlic, sausage and chicken. Stir in tomatoes, remaining spices and chicken stock.
Bring to simmer; cover and cook for 11/2 hours.
Place 1/2 cup rice in bottom of each soup bowl; top with gumbo and garnish.
Chicken and sausage gumbo
1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 cup flour
3/4 pound chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup chopped celery
8 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
11/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
4 cups hot cooked rice
3/4 cup sliced green onions
In skillet, brown sausage, onion and green pepper; drain all but 2 tablespoons fat. Set sausage mixture aside and keep warm. Add flour to fat, stirring constantly, to make roux.
In slow cooker, combine shredded chicken, sausage mixture, roux, celery, water, seasonings and sauces. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.
1 pound smoked sausage
6 cups chicken stock, divided
4 cups shrimp or fish stock
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
5 tablespoons bacon drippings or oil, divided
2 cups finely chopped onion
11/2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Creole Seasonings, recipe follows
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh okra
5 to 7 Louisiana blue crabs, cleaned
9 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pint Gulf oysters, optional
6 to 8 cups cooked white rice
Cut sausage in 1/4-inch slices, and brown in large stockpot. Deglaze pot with 2 cups chicken stock. Add shrimp stock and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer over low heat.
In heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons bacon drippings; saute onion, celery and bell pepper for 8 to 10 minutes. When onions are translucent, add green onions, garlic and bay leaves; cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Add thyme, parsley, cayenne, black pepper, salt and Creole seasonings. Transfer to stockpot.
Note: Once roux has been started, do not leave it unattended. Stir constantly, scraping sides and bottom of pan to prevent sticking or scorching.
To prepare medium-dark roux: In clean saucepan, over low heat, add olive oil. When oil is hot, slowly add flour, stirring constantly, until roux is color of chocolate, 30 to 45 minutes. When roux is desired color, slowly add 1 cup warm chicken stock and mix well. Carefully add roux mixture to stockpot.
Add remaining chicken stock and mix well. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
In clean pan, over low heat, saute okra in remaining drippings. Cook, stirring occasionally, until okra is no longer ropey, about 20 minutes.
Break crabs in half. Add to stockpot and increase heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer. After cooking for about 30 minutes, add shrimp and oysters. Cover and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired. Serve over cooked rice.
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons dried sweet basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
Dash chili powder
Dash cumin powder
Mix well. Yields 1/2 cup.
Excerpted from Grit, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 866-803-7096. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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