Mark's great gumbo

Oh, I wish I'd taken a picture of the gumbo we had last night! 

It was such good stuff.
Gumbo's a family tradition here -- Mark's family is from Arkansas, but his dad's roots are in Louisiana, and when I met Mark, both of his parents lived just north of New Orleans, in a house that had a canal in the back yard. 

I was a California girl, and I'd never been to New Orleans. I'd never had gumbo, and I'd never seen anyone pull live crabs from their back yard and throw them in a soup pot. 

But before long, I could cook up a gumbo with the best of them, and even managed to impress my new father-in-law! 

Gumbo's more of an idea than a recipe -- it's just a roux, and then you throw stuff in!

But I'll try to write down what I usually put in, and see if I can come up with a recipe that's easy to follow. 

Mark's great gumbo:

The roux:

1 1/4 cups flour (I use a GF blend)
1 cup olive oil or butter

The veggies: Onions, peppers and celery, a lot of each:
Chopped onions (I used two yellow onions)

Chopped peppers (I used three or four big green bell peppers)

Chopped celery (I used one whole thing of celery)

Okra, if you like it (I never use it and can't stand it) 

The protein:
Two pounds of shrimp, or one supermarket roasted chicken, or sausage, cut up and sauteed, or crabmeat, if you're feeling rich, or whatever you have leftover, or if it's Christmas and you're really feeling rich, put in crab and shrimp and whatever else you like. But know that if you put in sausage, it's going to be sausage gumbo, and you won't taste the crab, so it's a waste.

The other stuff:

Cilantro or parsley or both, chopped

Chicken stock (I like the Better than Bouillon paste, from a jar,) 

A can of tomatoes, if you feel like it

Salt and pepper and Tony Cachere's or some other kind of Cajun spice blend, or use cumin and ground red pepper and Italian seasonings

White rice, cooked, to serve with it

Tabasco and file' powder, if you're not using okra


First, as they say, you gotta make a roux: You just put fat and flour into a pan and brown it. Butter and regular flour, bacon grease and GF flour, olive oil and GF flour: Doesn't matter. Just fat and flour and stir until it's the color of peanut butter. Milk chocolate, if you like a darker roux. Dark chocolate, if you really like it smoky.

Blend thoroughly in a thick skillet and cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring CONSTANTLY. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BURN IT!! If you see black specks in the roux, you've screwed it up.  With a good cast iron Dutch oven or skillet, you can get a beautiful dark roux in only about 20 minutes.

Turn the heat down as the roux approaches the right color because the heat from the pan will continue cooking it.

Then add veggies:

Add your onions to the roux as it's near the end of cooking to arrest the cooking process and to soften and caramelize the onions (this is the way I like to do it). KEEP STIRRING. Once the roux is at the color you want add the bell peppers and celery and continue to stir until the roux is relatively cool. 

Add stock, carefully, to the veggie/roux mixture. 

They don't call roux "Cajun napalm" for nothing. Don't let any splatter on you, or you'll get a nasty burn. I have a scar on the back of my right hand from not knowing this in 1997. Learning to make gumbo was totally worth it.

Stir carefully.

Add chicken and sausage or whatever you're using, and all other ingredients except the shrimp, okra and parsley which will be saved for the end.

Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove lid and cook 30 more minutes stirring occasionally.

Add shrimp, okra and parsley and continue to cook on low heat uncovered for 10 minutes -- just until the shrimp is cooked through.

Serve the gumbo in a bowl, with a scoop of rice right in the middle.

Serve with file' powder, tabasco, crackers and rolls with butter. 

Meagan McGovern