Gumbo

Friday, Oct. 12 is National Gumbo Day, and for those who don’t know what it is, gumbo is a rich stew filled with meat, shellfish such as shrimp, celery, peppers, okra and onions and served over a bed of rice.

The name actually comes from an African word for okra, “gombo” which is one of the main ingredients.

The dish originated in Louisiana in the 18th century and has become a staple of New Orleans-esque cuisine and has grown in distinction not only in the southern parts of the country, but also the world in general.

Although gumbo originated in Louisiana, elements of the recipe are often linked to West Africa, Choctaw, and French cuisine. Because of this, there are many variations of gumbo.

Making gumbo is sort of like hearing Bubba on Forrest Gump list all the ways to make shrimp. There’s spicy Andouille gumbo with bacon-wrapped shrimp, okra gumbo with chickpeas and beans, shrimp gumbo, chicken and chorizo gumbo, Dungeness crab and shrimp gumbo, chicken and smoked sausage gumbo, vegetarian gumbo, spicy turkey and Andouille gumbo, beef and seafood gumbo, spicy gumbo, crock pot seafood gumbo and the list goes on and on.

However, there are two distinct types of gumbo from Louisiana — Creole and Cajun. Creole gumbo is popular in the southeastern New Orleans area and Cajun is from the southwest.

Creole is normally loaded with succulent seafood such as shrimp, while Cajun is made with poultry and Andouille sausage.

A dear friend of mine once asked that I make the recipes easy that I post. The easiest recipe in the world for gumbo that I know of is to go to the grocery store and pick up a box of Zatarain’s Gumbo and follow the directions on the back of the package. That’s about as simple of a recipe you will find. Now you will need to also pick up smoked sausage, chicken or whatever type of meat you prefer.

Now for everyone else, I have several recipes that you may be interested in. The first recipe is from one of my favorite Food Network TV personalities, Paula Deen.

Chicken gumbo

Ingredients

3 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves

Salt and pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into slices

½ cup all-purpose flour

5 Tbs. margarine

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves garlic minced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 stalks celery chopped

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish

4 cups hot water

5 beef bouillon cubes

1 (14-ounce can) stewed tomatoes with juice

2 cups frozen sliced okra

4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts

1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

Directions

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and remove. Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove. Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of margarine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. Let the roux cool.

Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons margarine. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper and celery and cook for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, to taste and the ¼ bunch parsley. Cook, while stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add 4 cups hot water and bouillon cubes, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving add the green onions, shrimp and chopped parsley.

This is absolutely scrumptious and not too difficult to prepare. I made this a few weeks ago, but tweaked it a little to make it my own. One thing I’ve discovered over the years is do not be afraid to add your own touch to recipes. I love spicy food, so for me a lot of hot sauce made this dish so yummy.

And I don’t like to use water in my recipes. I prefer using chicken or beef stock, and I always substitute margarine with butter when the recipe calls for margarine. It makes the dish tastier. Experiment and find what works best for you and your family.

Here’s another gumbo recipe that also sounds delicious, but this one is made with a lot of seafood. This would be right up my alley since I’m a seafood addict.

Seafood gumbo

Ingredients

1/2 pound bacon, chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 1/2 quarts chicken stock

1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice,

drained and chopped

1 pound frozen cut okra, not thawed

1 tsp. chopped thyme

1/2 California bay leaf

1 rounded teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 1/2 pound medium shrimp in shell,

peeled and deveined

2 dozen shucked oysters with their liquid

1/2 pound lump crabmeat

Preparation

Cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until browned but not crisp. Transfer bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon and transfer rendered fat to a heatproof liquid measure, then add enough oil to fat to bring total to 3/4 cup.

Stir together fat and flour in skillet with a wooden spoon, then cook roux over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until well browned (a shade darker than peanut butter), about 20 minutes.

Add celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a 6- to 7-quart pot.

Stir in stock, tomatoes, okra, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne, and 2 teaspoons salt and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Add parsley, scallions, shrimp, and oysters with their liquor and cook, stirring, until seafood is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Stir in crabmeat and bacon and simmer until heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt. Discard bay leaf and serve over a bed of rice.

With Halloween coming up, be sure to watch for some exciting “spook-a-licious” recipes that will melt in your mouth.

And remember, if you have a favorite recipe you would like to share, send it to dtobin@logandaily.com

Until next time, happy cooking!

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