Louisiana’s Gumbo Recipe
Louisiana Gumbo is said to be one of the greatest additions to American cooking. It is a stew or soup and its origin is said to be from the French when they began with the bouillabaisse in the 18th century. Then later the file’ powder of the Choctaw’ along with seafood was a welcome addition.
Still, later the African Americans added okra (the Bantu African name ‘kingombo’) is said to have given its name to Gumbo. Another version is that the Choctaw word for file’ is “combo” and that is how gumbo got its name. After the African Americans, the Spanish colonists also put their two bits into the Gumbo with the introduction of the holy trinity of onions, celery, and bell peppers.
The Creoles of New Orleans also added tomatoes and a variety of cooking techniques to it that added the much-wanted variety to this dish.
At the start, this was a simple soup with vegetables and meat in it. Okra got added to it and it brought not only a different flavor to it but also a texture that thickened the soup. Later somebody came up with the idea of flour as a thickening agent and still that pig lard browned in flour gave an altogether new coloring, texture, and taste to the Gumbo.
This concoction of flour and pig lard was called a roux and as they say, the rest is history. The roux became the favorite thickening agent along with the traditional okra. Another thickening agent that got added was by the Choctaw Indians and was called file’ or ground leaves of the sassafras tree which brought with it its flavor and texture.
From this complete evolution of the ubiquitous Gumbo, we can draw only one conclusion there were too many hands that made this stew or broth and did not spoil it rather they added their individuality to it. That is why the saying goes that no two Gumbo dishes will ever taste the same even if the same recipe is used.
The recipe that has been given below is the Tennessee version of the Chicken and Ham Gumbo with a slight twist to it.
Preparation Time: It takes fifteen minutes to prepare.
Cooking Time: It takes roughly one hour and fifteen minutes to cook the stew or soup.
Total Time: Total time taken is one and a half hours give or take a few minutes.
Nutritional Value: The total caloric count for gumbo is 130 of which carbohydrates are 18 grams or 6%, total fat content is 4 grams or 6%, proteins are six grams and cholesterol is 15 milligrams or 5%.
- Four tablespoons of butter
- One-fourth cup of diced smoked ham
- Half a cup of diced celery
- One green pepper, chopped
- One large onion, chopped
- One-fourth cup of raw rice
- One tablespoon of flour
- Two quarts of strong chicken broth
- One cup of sliced okra (fresh or canned)
- One cup chopped fresh or solid-pack canned tomatoes
- Two tablespoons chopped pimiento
- Half a cup of coarsely diced cooked or canned chicken
Preparation or Method
- Fry the ham, celery, green pepper, and onion in the butter until soft.
- Add rice to this and cook, stirring for five minutes.
- Add flour, blend, and then stir in broth and heat.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cover and let it simmer for 40 minutes till everything gets cooked.
Any Possible Variations: Gumbo is a soup or stew which is open to variations. Culinary history is proof that in the making of gumbos there have been so many variables and each set of people has added something to it down memory lane.
You can make the Gumbo a la Louisiana style by adding shrimp and other seafood to it because the people of this state were farmers and fisher folks as this state has some of the most extensive networks of bayous and rivers where catfish, craw-fish and other game fish were harvested. Nearer to the Gulf of Mexico oysters, shrimps, crabs and other forms of seafood were readily available.
The Hunting Season in Fall saw many games such as ducks, rabbits, and other wild games brought in by the Cajun hunters. So whatever meat and seafood were available along with the seasonal vegetables would go into the soup/stew pot and would go to feed many families and friends.
How to Garnish and Serve: Many would not know but the hot and spicy garnish in the Gumbo has been added to it only in the last thirty years. Before that Gumbo was served only with some droplets of Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce not to make it hot but give the flavor of pepper sauce and vinegar.
The smoked lean meats and the okra and roux would give the zing and zip to the soup. The stew or soup can be garnished with chopped cilantro or a slice of sour lime.
How to Store:
To store Gumbo you would have to be very careful because many kinds of Gumbo have seafood in them and this tends to spoil quickly. But then Gumbo is generally not eaten in one go and is relished for many days after its preparation. When stored and refrigerated correctly it will give you pleasure for many days.
The best way to store Gumbo is to do it immediately after it has been cooked. If you are wanting to eat it in the next few days then put it in an airtight container and store it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator where it is the coolest.
If there is seafood in it do not let it stay in the refrigerator for more than three or four days. Ensure that the setting of your refrigerator is below 40°F.
If you are planning to eat the Gumbo after some days then you can deep freeze it in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer after squeezing out as much air as possible from it. See that your freezer is at least at 0°F. To defrost it bring it down from the freezer into the refrigerated area.
Or else you can defrost the sealed bag in cold water making frequent changes to the water. Once it has defrosted heat it and eat it immediately. If you are planning to eat small portions of the Gumbo then store it in smaller sealed bags and take out only those you plan to eat leaving the rest in the freezer.
Related Information: Roux is said to be one of the basic thickening and tasteful agents in the dish of Gumbo. Given below is the basic version of how to make the roux. To make the roux generally most recipes call for an equal amount of any one of these cooking mediums such as shortening, butter, lard, oil, and in some cases bacon drippings and an equal amount of flour.
What cooking medium is being used gives the flavor and texture to the roux. One can use half a cup of any of the cooking mediums mentioned above to half a cup of flour, though many recipes call for two-thirds cups of the cooking medium to half a cup of flour.
Put the cooking medium into a skillet and melt it on a low flame till it becomes liquid when it is warm slowly sprinkle the flour on it and keep on stirring so that lumps are not formed or kept to a minimum. Ensure that the flour does not burn even slightly and become black as otherwise, you will have to dispose of the whole thing.
Stir the flour in it continuously till it becomes brown. As soon as that happens remove it from the heat and add it to the recipe that requires it, in this case, the Gumbo.
Hints: To avoid the viscosity and stringiness of the okra when you cook it excessively, add it just twenty minutes before serving and cook it till it just gets tender. If you are using file’ in your gumbo dish then do not add it to the whole pot as it breaks down when cooked excessively.
Instead, put a quarter or half spoon in the individual bowl depending on the size of the bowl and the individual’s taste. If you have added it to the whole pot then make sure that you do not boil it again.
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