You can’t talk about gumbo without mentioning how it came about. The word gumbo comes from ki ngombo, which is the West African word for “okra.”
West Africans used okra as a thickener for the original gumbo, because okra is mucilaginous—it contains a slimy substance. Yes, the very first gumbo was made from okra by the Africans. It was like a stew, and they made it using the rations and scraps they were given.
In New Orleans, our gumbo tastes different from the gumbo you will get anywhere else. Typically when you go to someone’s house in New Orleans you’ll be served a seafood gumbo. Rarely will you go to someone’s house and be served an okra or filé gumbo as the main dish, because those are considered a specialty or acquired taste gumbo.
We as New Orleanians take gumbo seriously, and we take time to build the flavor because we know that everything contributes to the flavor, taking it from “This is good” to “Damn, you made this?!” That’s where everyone wants to be, on the pleasant side of surprise.
Recipe and excerpt by Toya Boudy from her book, “Cooking for the Culture.”
Makes 10 servings
1 cup oil
1 cup flour
2 small onions, chopped finely
1 celery stalk, chopped finely
1 bell pepper, chopped finely
2 (16-ounce) boxes chicken stock
2 (16-ounce) boxes chicken broth
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 (16-ounce) package sausage links, sliced horizontally
4 hot sausage patties or ground hot sausage (removed from its casing)
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in mini cubes or shredded
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pounds crawfish with fat
1 pound gumbo crabs or crab legs
1 teaspoon crab, shrimp, and crawfish boil (liquid concentrate)
Cajun seasoning or seasoning salt
cooked rice for serving
- Prepare your roux by heating the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Once the oil is hot, you will begin to see ripples at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the flour and whisk until a deep chocolate color.
- Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the roux (the trinity). Mix quickly and move to the next step immediately.
- Add the two boxes of chicken stock and two boxes of the broth.
- Whisk the roux, trinity, and liquid thoroughly together.
- Add the garlic. Allow the liquid to simmer thoroughly over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add all the sausage and let it cook for 15 minutes. Add the chicken and let it cook for 20 minutes.
- Add all the seafood and the crab, shrimp, and crawfish boil liquid. Don’t worry, the shrimp and gumbo crabs will cook extremely fast (5 minutes).
- Skim the fat from the top.
- Season to taste with Cajun seasoning.
- Remove from the heat.
- Serve with rice.
TIPS & NOTES
In our family, we have seafood allergies so we have to be careful. There’s one heavy suggestion I carry when it comes to seafood gumbo: Always remove about 6 cups of gumbo before you add the seafood, and allow those 6 cups to be chicken and sausage gumbo only. It’s an easy extra step to accommodate someone who has a seafood allergy or dietary restriction.
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