Lafayette, Louisiana

What Makes Gumbo, Gumbo?

Gumbo is what your momma made, a definition that assures that there are as many different types of gumbos as there are mothers who make them. Sometimes it’s caramel colored roux, okra, tomatoes, shrimp and crab seasoned delicately and thickened slightly to the viscosity of a soup. Sometimes it’s a chocolate brown roux, thick as a stew and brimming with lumps of chicken and sausage. Still others have no roux at all and are served entirely with greens and legumes. Gumbos are typically served over steamed white rice, but some tables prefer sweet potatoes or potato salad. The variation is maddening when trying to sort out what makes gumbo, gumbo.

Details about the origins of gumbo are murky. A dish called gumbo doesn’t really show up in historical record until the beginning of the 19th century, when the word starts showing up prolifically in correspondence. What it was isn’t exactly clear except that it most likely included okra, given that the name derives directly from the West African word for the gooey vegetable, kimgombo, and was served primarily with seafood.

Over the next 100 years, that soup-like substance evolved into what we moderns call gumbo. Gumbo is not one thing. But its definition is nevertheless apparent. For something to truly be gumbo it must participate in the unique Louisiana culinary heritage of Cajuns, Creoles, Spaniards, Germans, Italians, Irish, Choctaws, Coushattas, Houmas, and all kinds of other peoples, places and things. It more often than not will have a roux, which will come in varying volumes, shades, and tastes. It will be served with a spoonful or cupful of rice, or thickened with okra orfile’, or enriched by poultry marrow and andouille smoke. And no matter how your mother made hers, you will know a gumbo when you see it.

Zadee’s Chicken & Shrimp Okra Gumbo Recipe

½ c Vegetable Oil
3 lbs Fresh Okra, Chopped
6 c of Water or Shrimp Stock
3 tbsp Roux
1 Onion, Chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
1 Celery Stalk, Chopped
2 lbs Chicken Breast, Chopped
½ Box of Savoy’s Sausage
3 lbs Shrimp, Peeled, Cleaned & Deveined
1 Small Bag Powered Shrimp
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Pre-heat oven to 350˚ in preparation for smothering okra.
Place ¼ cup of vegetable oil in medium sized pot over medium heat.

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