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 south Louisiana , gumbo is one of my favorite dishes – especially this time of year when nothing hits the spot like a nice hearty dish of soup or stew – or gumbo!. So today, I thought I’d pull out a recipe I shared here over 10 years ago and present it again.
Gumbo has, of course, 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).
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 flour and oil mixture. As for the rest, some cooks prefer to thicken with okra, some with filé.
I actually love to cook (it’s the cleaning up after part I hate!). I also like to experiment in the kitchen. I call it being creative. My less generous friends call it my inability to let well enough alone. <g> I especially like dishes that I can make a big batch of and freeze portions of for later use. The recipe below is one such.
For this version of gumbo, I’ve added a few extra elements to give it a little western twist (not entirely my idea – I saw the concept in a magazine and then added my own spin to it). As with any gumbo you can just use whatever meats you have on hand (For instance, it’s a great way to use leftover turkey from those upcoming holiday meals!)
So without further ado, here is my take on a Cowboy Gumbo
- 1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
- 2 tblsp flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 4 cups water
- 1 can (14-15 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (6-8 oz) tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 lb sliced okra (sautéed with ½ teaspoon vinegar until ‘slime’ is gone)
- 4 lbs meat – you can get away with less but I like to be generous with the protein. Meats that work well in this gumbo are sausage (I like andouille sausage), deboned chicken or turkey, pork, or game meats. You can use any one of these or a combination of two or more
- Tobasco sauce or liquid crab boil to taste (optional)
- Use flour and oil or butter to make a roux.
Do this by combining them in a heavy saucepan and cooking over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixtures is a medium brown color (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add garlic, onions, green onions, celery and bell peppers. Cook until tender
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes
- Add okra. Return to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for another twenty minutes.
- Remove bay leaves, skim excess oil, and serve over rice.
As you can probably guess, this makes a very large batch. Leftovers (if there are any!) can be frozen for later consumption.
So how about you? Do you like gumbo or do you have another favorite hearty dish for fall and winter?