“What is New Orleans? New Orleans is Creole gumbo,
filé gumbo, cowan gumbo, chicken gumbo, smoked
sausage gumbo, hot sausage gumbo, onion gumbo.”
– Kermit Ruffins, New Orleans vocalist and trumpeter
Gumbo is the quintessential New Orleans dish; it bonds New Orleanians of all classes and cultures, gracing tables of the poor, wealthy and everywhere in between. It’s the most asked for dinner when we have out of town guests, there is hardly a restaurant in the area that doesn’t have at least one gumbo on its menu and every family has its own recipe to swear by. You know it’s a big deal when Alton Brown himself gets in on the action and an entire Disney movie is practically based around a family’s gumbo pot.
Gumbo has been around long before written records and getting to the source of it is really impossible. Several cultures claim gumbo as their own invention, and who could blame them, but I like to think of it more as a shared experience. Gumbo is a thick soup made with a roux (equal parts fat and flour), the trinity (bell pepper, celery and onions), stock and is thickened with either okra or file powder (ground sassafras leaves). Folks of a creole heritage will put tomatoes in their gumbo, and that’s how I like mine, but this is just blasphemy to cajuns. The meats can vary from sausage, chicken, seafood or no meat at all. One of the most famous meatless gumbos is the Holy Thursday tradition of Gumbo Z’herbs. I like to eat my gumbo with a side of steamed rice and warm buttered bread, my husband prefers crispy crackers and other folks plop a heaping spoon of cold creamy potato salad in their gumbo. Everyone has their own way both of making and eating this classic dish. What’s yours?
There is a controversial new trend in New Orleans- quick remakes of traditional dishes and gumbo is one of these Traditional gumbos take many hours and lots of attention to make, something that not every family is able to do. Single parents, folks working more than one job, students working while in school- why should they have to wait for someone to make them a pot of gumbo? I was excited to see 30 minute versions of the classics (gumbo, etouffe, stew, jambalaya) in the July/August edition of Louisiana Life magazine. While the end result certainly isn’t the same as the all day method it is absolutely delicious. I’m all for tradition but I also recognize the need to amend tradition to the time, so we’ll have traditional gumbo on weekends and holidays and the quick version during the week.
I was intrigued and decided to give it a whirl. What’s really great about this recipe is that it’s made with things most of us New Orleanians tend to have on hand all the time. I can’t remember a time when my freezer didn’t have seasoning mix, sausage of some kind (usually andouille) and the spice cabinet always has bay leaves, thyme and cayanne. The end result was pleasantly surprising.; it was honestly better than I thought it would be and would make a great addition to our dinner rotation. The taste certainly doesn’t have the complex, obviously slow cooked taste of a regular gumbo but for a bunch of things that came together in half an hour this is bliss. You could boost the flavor profile by making sure your sausage is the seasoned variety (don’t skimp on quality here!) and if you can get a cajun roast rotisserie chicken opt for that instead of plain (or sprinkle the meat with some seasoning as you pick it from the bones). And it’s so easy that even my can’t cook hubby would be able to toss it all together! WIN!
I followed the recipe as written until the very end, I used up all the file powder a few weeks prior and forgot to restock, so I tossed in 2 heaping cups of okra and all was well. (Remember, you’ll need one or the other to use as a thickener or your gumbo will be more liquidy than normal. This isn’t a deal breaker though, try it out and see if you like it brothy. I certainly find this comforting and purposely leave out the thickening agents when I’m sick!) Like most things in cooking though, this is more method than recipe and once you get the hang of it you can change it up according to your family’s likes and what you have on hand at the time. Isn’t that the beauty of a gumbo afterall
Now for the giveaway…
It’s just rude to do all this talking about food and not share some, don’t ya think? So I’d like to give one lucky reader a chance to make their very own New Orleans-style food. I will send ya a copy of the Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook as well as a one year subscription to “Louisiana Life” magazine. There will also be some other goodies in there that are essential to making a good New Orleans meal. You’ll certainly need some Tabasco sauce, Jazzmen rice and other amazing local yummies! No tourist trap crap here, just great local products.). All you have to do is leave a comment telling me if you’ve ever had gumbo and what you thought. If you haven’t that’s ok, which gumbo do you think will be your favorite and why?
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The contest will be open until 10am CST Wednesday November 9 when random.org will give me the wining number. So if you don’t win take your pitchforks and angry villagers on over to that way, but for heavens sake there will be more giveaways.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I am sending you products that I have purchased because I love them and strongly(!) believe in supporting my local businesses.