Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.
Did you know that, in addition to this being Columbus Day, it is also National Gumbo Day? And since I was born and raised in Louisiana , gumbo is one of my favorite dishes to both eat and cook. While seafood gumbo is one of the more popular versions, I prefer a good chicken and sausage gumbo. But before I share my recipe with you, I thought I’d share a bit of trivia and history surrounding gumbo first.
Gumbo has been a staple of south Louisiana cuisine for nearly 300 years and there are as many variations on it as there are cooks. While I learned from my mother who learned from hers, and my daughters are now learning from me, you can sample gumbos from each of us and you’ll discover no two taste the same. All true gumbo cooks put their own spin on their dish.
Gumbo is a true multi-cultural dish. While there are debates over its origins, there is no doubt that it contains strong influences from the French, African, Acadian and Native American cultures as well as lesser influences for the Spanish, Italian and even Germans.
There are two theories as to where the dish got its name. The most popular theory is that it originated from the West African word for okra, ki ngombo. The other theory is that it comes from the Choctaw word for sassafras, which is kombo. (filé powder, a common gumbo ingredient, is ground sassafras).
Most gumbos start with a roux, a mixture of flour and oil employed by French cooks as early as the 14th century. Much of the thickness, color, and texture comes from the use of this rice and oil mixture. As for the rest, some cooks prefer to thicken with okra, some with filé (but an authentic gumbo would never contain both).
Now, here is my own favorite gumbo recipe:
- 1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
- 2 tblsp flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 5-6 cups chicken or seafood stock (can substitute water if this is unavailable)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 lb sliced okra (best if sautéed separately with ½ teaspoon vinegar until the ‘slime’ is gone)
- 4 lbs meat – any one kind or a combination of your favorites. Meats that work well in a gumbo are Sausage (cut into ½ inch slices), deboned chicken or other fowl, pork, shrimp, crawfish, crab or even game meats. I normally use 2 pounds each of chicken and a spicy sausage.
- Tabasco sauce, Creole seasoning or liquid shrimp boil to taste (optional). I use Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.
Note, when I’m looking to change it up a bit I will add a small can of diced tomatoes to the gumbo at the same time I add the broth.
- Use flour and oil or butter to make a roux.
Do this by combining the two ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cooking over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixtures turns the color of a copper penny (about 15-20 minutes).
- Add garlic, onions, green onions and celery. Cook until tender
- Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT okra (and shellfish if applicable) and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes
- Add okra (and shellfish if applicable). Return to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for another twenty minutes, adding more liquid as needed.
- Remove bay leaves, skim excess oil, and serve over rice.
Leftovers (if there are any!) can be frozen for later consumption.
So what about you – do you enjoy gumbo? Do you have a favorite kind? Have you ever cooked it yourself?