Gumbo Made Easy

Saturday, October 23, 2010 @ 02:10 PM

Gumbo is a soup or stew typically served over rice. Not to be confused with jambalaya, which is usually cooked with the rice right in the pot. Both dishes were  invented in Louisiana. Some say Cajun, some say Creole, and there are elements from both styles of cooking in a great gumbo. There are also elements that can arguably make one a Creole gumbo and one more of a Cajun gumbo. But we are not here to argue about who did what or when it happened. Gumbo is a really great food item that has developed over the years by many different cultural and environmental influences. Typically, as long as you have your “Holy Trinity” of vegetables, according to French cuisine, in your pot (onion, celery, & green pepper), then anything else that crawls, slithers, swims, or flies, can go in the pot and  behold…gumbo.

Today we will discuss a very basic gumbo that can be made inside on your stove top in cast iron cookware. After you get your basics down, you can expand, experiment, and eventually go larger. Expand to outdoor functions, using big cast iron jambalaya pots or by stewing in a traditional turkey fryer. Functions like tailgating, a fall festival, a Boy Scout Jamboree, or even a big church social.

First thing that you want to do is make a rue. Now this can be done a few different ways. First we are going to take out our flat bottom Dutch oven, add 4 0z. of oil or melted butter.  Now add 4  oz.(in weight) of all purpose flour. Stir or whisk together into a paste. Now if you just cook the rue with direct heat, until it turns to white paste, it will thicken quite nicely. If you are short of time, this may be a way for you to go. If you are looking for a more traditional gumbo, you can cook the rue in the oven, or with indirect heat, to get an earthier, bolder flavor. It won’t thicken like the white paste, but we will add another thickening agent (File Powder or crushed sassafras leaves) at the end. Make your flour paste, and put it in the oven, without the lid, at 350 degrees F, for about an hour and 15 mins. (It will turn a brown or brick red. It’s ok, that is the way you want it to look. According to some people, this will give you that Cajun gumbo brown color, like when made outside in a cast iron jambalaya pot over an open fire.)

Decide what kinds of meat you would like to add. Chicken, sausage, shrimp, frog legs, gator, fish, crawdads, snake, pork, beef, whatever.

If you are making your rue in the oven, now is a good time to clean your shrimp, fish, etc, whatever is going in the pot. Set your cleaned meat aside, and take your shrimp and crawfish heads, exoskeletons, chicken bones, etc, and put it in a pot with about 2 qts. of water. Set it to boil, then set to simmer, and let it cook down until it has reduced to about half, about an hour. Strain out the broth. Now you have a great stock to base your gumbo with.

When the rue is done, set it on the stove top. Medium heat, add your “Holy Trinity”:

1 cup chopped onion

1\2 cup each chopped celery & green pepper

2 Tbsp. garlic (optional)

Stir constantly about 7-8 mins.

Now for more ingredients:

1\2 cup peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes

1 tsp. thyme

1 Tbsp salt (Kosher if possible)

1\2 tsp. black pepper

2 bay leaves

1\2 tsp. Cayenne pepper

Mix together. Stir your stock in slowly (about 4 cups), mix well. Now is the time to add chicken pieces or other cubed raw meat. Turn heat to low, cover, cook about 35 mins. This would be a great time to start your rice. After the 35 mins., turn off the gumbo.

Now is a great time to add your shrimp, etc, and  smoked sausage  (I prefer Andouille sausage, for kick). The sausage can be cut up and fried a little prior to it’s addition, or just cut up and thrown in. Your preference. Remove bay leaves.

Now you also want to add your thickening agent. Some folks prefer okra, but traditionally, local to the area, there were Sassafras trees. File powder was made from drying & crushing young Sassafras leaves, a local Native American tradition. It also adds a distinct flavor. DO NOT use both! It will congeal into non-edible paste.

Let the pot set for about 10 mins. Serve in bowls over cooked rice.

As I said, experiment. Start out small. Just use shrimp and sausage with chicken broth. If you like it, get bolder and add some chicken or fish. Get outside and make a huge pot while tailgating at the football game. Teach your scouts how to make gumbo in cast iron over an open fire. Use your imagination! Have fun and start cooking!

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply