Gumbo, a stew or soup usually made with chicken or seafood, with a thick gravy often called roux (pronounced roo). This stew gets its name from the Bantu language okra (ki kombo) or the Choctaw word for file (kombo). This is just one version of how gumbo came about.
Gumbo is a food eaten in many parts of the United States, more so in the south. Gumbo is a food that people of poor background created. Many years ago a woman once told me that gumbo has been around for a very long time and was actually made of the food in the area that they could find. On the contrary folks now a days swear that gumbo is very expensive to make, however, I believe if that is what you like you make it, you eat it and you enjoy it. Yes, gumbo can be very costly, but in Louisiana way back then the seafood was nearby and plentiful, therefore, it was a poor man’s paradise.
In Louisiana folks eat gumbo on special occasions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays. Gumbo is fun to eat and is always a conversational gathering. Gumbo makes conversation, jokes and of course happy faces.
In the state of Louisiana gumbo is well known and eaten often all over these parts. Although folks all over the United States consume this delicious food it is highly recognized in the southern parts of the United States mainly Louisiana. Gumbo has been around for a very long time “Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, who has written the definitive history of the Cajuns, found that the first documented references appeared around the turn of the 19th century.” (Dry) Gumbo has been around so long it is to Louisiana as apple pie is to the United States.
A major question is “Where did gumbo come from?” Well as you know several people will tell you several different things, however, gumbo is a dish that was actually influenced by the French and Spanish settlers, African slaves who gave it the name from the Bantu, gombo for okra, and the Native Americans that lived in the bayous of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta.
Gumbo usually comes from and is known by two groups of people, one being Cajun folks that are considered to be Acadians from Canada, and the other being Creoles. The name Creoles meaning a mixture of people, for example, French and Spanish, French and Native Americans or French and Black Americans.
When there are a variety of people in the melting pot you also have variations of ways to prepare gumbo in the melting pot as well.
Gumbo is a dish that is prepared and eaten in many parts of the United States. Gumbo is eaten often in southern states and more so in Louisiana. However on the contrary in other parts of the country gumbo is usually eaten on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and special occasions.
When it comes to gumbo there are several types, however, chicken and sausage, and seafood are the most popular. With these two gumbos being the most popular this is where the Cajun and the Creole styles come in. You will definitely get a disagreement on what make a gumbo. If you find yourself in New Orleans, which is a Creole, not a Cajun, town, you’ll find some cross mixture of elements. Suffice it to say that Cajun gumbos are usually thicker, spicier, and hotter. Creoles like to think of their gumbos as more refined.” (Burns)
This dish has lots of history; it has been eaten for roughly 200 years, maybe in 200 different ways. Gumbo is made from the immediate wildlife that was readily available, such as seafood, wild animals and fresh vegetables. “By the time the Louisiana Territory was purchased from the French in 1803, international trade and forces had converged in the region, and many hands were stirring the gumbo pots. Creole cooks nursed the dish, and French Acadian (Cajun) influences provided the roux, a classic touch for thickening gravy and sauces. Hot peppers from the Caribbean and later from New Iberia, Louisiana added heat to the dish.” (Berry)
“|Another local ingredient, dried sassafras leaves, now referred to as gumbo filé, was borrowed from Native Americans and used as a thickener replacing okra.” (Berry) Here in both Cajun and Creole cooking okra and file (just ground sassafras leaves) is considered to be a main ingredient in gumbo. “In this neck of the woods if you don’t use both okra and filé in gumbo, people don’t like.” (White) So with all that being said, “Let’s make some gumbo!” The following are two recipes one is from a magazine titled Southern Living the other being my very own.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1-pound Andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 skinned bone-in chicken breasts
3/4-cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 quarts hot water
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot sauce
4 green onions, sliced
Filé powder (optional)
Hot cooked rice
Garnish: chopped green onions
Prep: 55 Minutes
Cook: 3 Hours
Cook sausage in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels, reserving drippings in Dutch oven. Set sausage aside. Cook chicken in reserved drippings in Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutes or until browned. Remove to paper towels, reserving drippings in Dutch oven. Set chicken aside.
Add enough oil to drippings in Dutch oven to measure 1/2 cup. Add flour, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 20 to 25 minutes, or until roux is chocolate colored.
Stir in onion, bell pepper, and celery; cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until tender. Gradually add 2 quarts hot water, and bring mixture to a boil; add chicken, garlic, and next 5 ingredients. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Remove chicken; let cool.
Add sausage to gumbo; cook 30 minutes. Stir in green onions; cook for 30 more minutes.
Bone chicken, and cut meat into strips; return chicken to gumbo, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Remove gumbo from heat. Sprinkle with filé powder, if desired. Serve over hot cooked rice. Garnish, if desired.
Now my own gumbo really doesn’t have a recipe, I just start throwing things in and create it as I go. You must keep in mind though that gumbo is to be cooked with lots of love, however, I will do my best to make you a good recipe. Just don’t forget to prepare this dish with love from the heart.
My Own Gumbo
3-pounds shrimp (medium)
2-3-pounds crab legs (separated at shoulders)
2-pounds Andouille sausage cut ¼ inch thick
1-cup vegetable oil
1¼-cup all-purpose flour
2 finely chopped onions
1 whole onion
6 celery stalks finely chopped
2 bell peppers finely chopped
1 bell pepper for stock
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped or slice
2 teaspoons of filé
2 teaspoons of paprika
Salt and black or white pepper to taste
1½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Shell and devein shrimp, keep shells for stock. Put shrimp shells, 1 cut onion and 1 cut bell pepper in 6-cups of water and boil for approximately 10 minutes. After boiling is complete drain keeping the stock. While preparing stock you fry the chicken, (no need to salt or flour the chicken) just fry to golden or dark brown. Fry sausage. Set stock, fried chicken and sausage aside. In 10-12 inch skillet (preferably cast iron) heat vegetable oil at medium high then add flour with wooden spoon stir (remembering this is a timely process) constantly stirring avoiding burning flour. Once you have reached a medium to dark color you can start adding the stock in small batches at a time, stirring constantly (still drinking beer) what the heck pour some beer in with the stock. Once you have reached the desired color for your roux approximately 30-45 minutes total time you can transfer all ingredients (excluding the shrimp) into the 10-quart pot. Bring to a boil and simmer low for 1½ – 2 hours, skimming the fat as it may occur. Now keep in mind this is a southern mixture “and we don’t use no recipe.” While cooking gradually add remaining stock and water to your liking. Once you are satisfied with your gumbo you put in the shrimp and cook/simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Now your creation is complete. Serve over white rice. You may garnish with fresh chives. Some like corn bread, however, I prefer saltines. Note: once you have tasted your gumbo take some filé and sprinkle over lightly and experience the difference.
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