Halgrimson: Gumbo full of flavor
While the name of gumbo stew is not exactly lovely, the dish is divine. Gumbo is a Creole concoction hailing from New Orleans, but it travels well - especially if you want a meal to warm the last winter evenings that are sure to come. Gumbo can h...
While the name of gumbo stew is not exactly lovely, the dish is divine.
Gumbo is a Creole concoction hailing from New Orleans, but it travels well - especially if you want a meal to warm the last winter evenings that are sure to come.
Gumbo can have countless ingredients but usually includes okra, tomatoes, green peppers, celery and onions. The meats cooked in the dish range from chicken, ham and sausage to shrimp, crab and oysters. And a good gumbo always has a brown roux and filé powder, which is the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree.
Gumbo's roots reflect the settlers in early day Louisiana - French, Spanish and African - in fact, the term "gumbo" comes from the African word for okra.
Okra came to this country with Ethiopian slaves. It is one of the ingredients that serves to thicken gumbo. When cooked, it has a glutinous texture. Okra is available both fresh and frozen.
A roux is a combination of flour and fat, slowly cooked on low heat. It can be white, blond or brown, which is determined by how long it is cooked. For gumbo you want a dark brown roux. This, too, is a thickener. The roux must be stirred constantly, being careful not to let it burn if a dark roux is wanted.
Creole Chicken Gumbo
1 chicken, about 3 pounds
6 to 8 cups water
1/4 cup butter for roux
1/4 cup flour for roux
1 cup rice cooked in some of the chicken stock
5 tablespoons butter to sauté vegetables and sausage
1 onion chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound hot sausage, cut in small pieces
1 pound okra, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 to 2 cups diced tomato
1/2 cup roux
1/2 teaspoon gumbo file
Cook chicken in water, covered, for about 1 hour. Cool and remove chicken from bones. Cut in pieces and set aside. Strain stock and skim off fat and cook rice in 2 cups of the stock and set aside to keep warm.
For the roux, melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour until smooth. Continue stirring until roux turns dark brown. Be careful not to let it burn. Set aside until needed.
In a large pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Add chopped onion, celery, green pepper and sausage, sauté until vegetables are softened. Add garlic, okra, bay leaves and tomato, and continue to sauté another 2 to 3 minutes. With a whisk, blend in roux. Continue to whisk as you add 5 to 6 cups of chicken stock. Add chicken, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Let cook 5 more minutes to combine flavors. Remove from heat and stir in file powder. Serve hot over rice.
Source: "The Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org