Gumbo

The Captain and I love gumbo. We didn’t really know this until recently; we’d had it a few times in restaurants, etc., but didn’t really understand the difference from jambalaya. (Of which we are also major fans.)

The Captain was in N’awlins a few years ago when he took a free day on a business trip in FL to drive over. He got to see Bourbon Street and the French Market, and go to the Riverfront Park and see the boats, etc. He would email me pictures as he took them, walking around the French Quarter – Since I’d been there two times myself, it was so much fun going on this virtual sight-seeing stroll with him.

…but I digress. Back to GUMBO!

One of the sweet New Orleans remembrances the Captain brought back for me was The Little Gumbo Book. Now, I ungraciously let this book sit on my cookbook bookshelves for a few years before I finally managed to make one of the recipes. I guess that procrastination was its own punishment, because now I know we could have been eating gumbo all of this time.

Even so, I’ve still only made one recipe from this book, which has 27. But, since most of them are a variation on a theme, it’s really not too awful; there are just a few base recipes, then everything else simply makes a few changes here and different pinch of that there, and off you go.

One of the things I love about this cookbook is that the first 1/3 of the book is all theory about proper gumbo makin’. For example, I’ve made my share of roux; I mean, the French version follows a hard rule of equal parts fat and flour. But this little book pays no attention to that. After all, they have a different way of doing things down there. When you’re in N’awlins, who cares about classic French cooking rules? You just fry your 2 parts flour in 3+parts vegetable oil until it is DARK brown and tasting mighty toasty, just this side of burnt. I had no idea. People, I’m telling you: Pure Flavor Country.

You can see how dark brown the roux is - here it's just been added to the sautéed vegetables.

Without this darkly toasted yumminess, I am certain that the Mamaw’s Gumbo recipe simply wouldn’t have the same depth of flavor, no matter how many cans of Rotel tomatoes and properly-frozen okra you added.

Though the recipe calls for bag after bag of frozen vegetables, the only ones I use frozen are the okra, because it’s hard to get it fresh up here in Seattle in the wintertime. I think the keys are toasting that roux, and then sautéing the okra “till not ropy anymore”; those two things make this the best-tasting gumbo I’ve eaten. 

Almost 'not ropy anymore'

Adding the okra. You can see that the roux is a little lighter here, because a cup or so of hot water's been added.

Prep station. Herbs, spices, salt, and garlic ready to add. Also note high-tech pageholder for cookbook.

All ingredients but the smoked sausage and shrimp. This is stirred well to incorporate everything (notice how red this is compared to the picture below - here the roux hasn't yet been stirred in) and cooks down for a while. Added bonus is that the whole house smells like the yummiest gumbo ever.

Ready to ladle over a big bowl of steamed rice!

 With a salad and a bit of cornbread (with butter – and raw honey), and a big bowl o’ fluffy rice and gumbo, well… I couldn’t be happier.

Do tell: What are your southern cooking favorites?

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