Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Gumbo is a traditional Louisiana soup. Since there have been requests that I write more about our local culture and specifically this soup, I am going to give the basics and what I do know about it.

According to the book "The Encyclopedia Of Cajun & Creole Cuisine" By Chef John D. Folse, I mentioned in the past, "Gumbo" is the West African word for okra. Okra was brought over from Africa via the flourishing trade with the West Indies. Since gumbo is generally made with okra, the soup was given this name. Some other crops that came over in this manner as well are cowpeas (black eye and purple hull etc.), sesame, and peanuts.

Fresh Louisiana shrimp bought right off the boat. $2.35 per lb (size 16-20). Shrimp are sized by how many you get in a pound.

Gumbo is a soup with meat and seasonings thickened with roux. Generally it is made with chicken and sausage. There are many many variations. Everyone has their own. Typically I make it with chicken, smoked sausage, and shrimp. My husband recently made a smoked duck (he smoked the duck himself) and andouille sausage. Andouille is a sausage that is made with chunks (instead of ground) meat and seasonings and then smoked. It's usually made by locals who produce specialty items such as: boudin (rice,meat and seasonings stuffed in a sausage skin), andouille, hog's head cheese (meat and seasonings formed in a gel loaf), smoke sausage, cracklins' etc. The best andouille I've ever had is found in Laplace Louisiana, then Lafayette. Taffe's in St. Bernard Parish (In Louisiana we have Parishes not Countys.) made the best hog's head cheese. His business was destroyed by Katrina and he hasn't opened back up. A real loss.

Basic Gumbo:

1 chicken

1 pack smoke sausage

2 lbs of peeled shrimp

1/2 to 1 cup of flour

1 cup of oil (butter, veggie, olive)

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup diced celery

1/2 cup chopped green onions

3 cloves of garlic minced

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

1 tsp. Cheyenne pepper

1 cup of chopped okra (I do not like the texture okra gives the soup. I always omit. Others absolutely love okra in their gumbo, give it a try)

First: In preparation to make a gumbo. Boil and debone one chicken. Throw away the skin and bones. Reserve meat and stock in large pot. Have seasonings ready.

Next Basic Roux:

Everything is done so hodgepodge and by memory. There are no hard fast rules. Roux is basically flour cooked in oil until it is dark brown. Once it is dark brown the liquids are added or you add it to liquids.

I usually saute the green onions, garlic, onions, bell pepper, celery and chopped smoked sausage in a little olive oil or butter and then put in pot with chicken stock and chicken meat. In the same skillet I add more oil and brown the flour to make a dark roux. It usually starts to smoke before it is finished. You must pay close attention to the roux and keep stirring and turning it often. When the roux is done, I carefully add it to the pot as well. The hot grease will pop when you add it. Sometimes I add a cup of chicken stock to the skillet when the roux is done to loosen it up before adding it to the large pot.

Add two bay leaves, salt, pepper, and Cheyenne pepper to mixture. If you like it very hot add more pepper. If you like it mild add less. Bring entire mixture to a rolling boil. Then add shrimp and okra. You can omit the okra if you do not like it's slimy texture (I really only like okra pickled or fried).

Continue to cook until shrimp are done. Remove bay leaves and skim any fat off of top. Serve over cooked rice.

It's traditional in my husband's family to serve gumbo with potato salad. True Cajuns always put a dollop of potato salad in the middle of their bowl of gumbo. Others also like garlic french bread with theirs.

Variations: (use basic seasonings and roux, just change up the meat)

Duck and Andouille

Chicken, Sausage, Oyster, crab, and shrimp

Quail and Andouille

Seafood only Oyster, crab, and shrimp.

Some people add tomatoes to their gumbo

Gumbo Potato Salad:

2-3 lb potatoes

6 hard boiled eggs



1 cup of stuffed Olives cut in half

6 slices of bacon fried crispy and crushed

Salt and pepper

Peel and boil potatoes until soft then drain. Smash potatoes in a large bowl with a potato smasher. Peel eggs then smash eggs into small pieces with potato smasher. Add to bowl with potatoes. Add enough mayo to bind eggs and potatoes together, salt, pepper, a dash of mustard and the olives. Stir until combined. Sprinkle bacon pieces on top and serve with gumbo.


Sandy said...

Thanks! :) I can't wait to try it! I'll let you know how it comes out. -Sandy

Egghead said...

This looks fantastic. We will try it soon. My husband loves gumbo and has been nagging me to find a good recipe.