Wednesday, March 5, 2014

gumbo: soul food, no matter what kind of diet you're on!

I broke my fast around noon today with some of the gumbo I made yesterday.

My gumbo is not EXACTLY traditional....  Anyone who knows my dietary interests nowadays will be amused by the fact that the concoction I make now is based on a version that came out of Dean Ornish's old "Eat More Weigh Less" cookbook!  Yes, about twenty years ago I too had been brainwashed by low-fat vegetarian propaganda!  My best friend at that time was the woman who introduced me to esoteric philosophy, which suggests that vegetarianism promotes good karma and better psychism.

DO's recipe, of course, uses lots of vegetables and veg bouillon cubes, and tofu to provide a reasonable amount of protein.  Needless to say the last two additives are where that recipe and mine differ most.

I finely-chopped a good-sized onion and sautéed it in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  To this I added three sliced carrots, three sliced celery ribs (should have used more, but it was okay anyhow), 1 1/2 bell peppers cut in dice (because that's what I had to use up), two small zucchinis cut in half-moons, a tablespoon or two of minced garlic, a bag of sliced frozen okra, a can of tomatoes, and the rest of the bunch of Italian parsley in the fridge (which needed using).  To this, I added a package of frozen crawdad tail-meat, a bag of frozen small shrimp (12 oz. or so), two chicken breasts sliced into spoon-sized morsels, and a couple of quarts of bone broth I had in the freezer (I had lamb and beef handy).  About a tablespoon of Tony Cachere's "more spice" (i.e. less salt-to-cayenne balance) creole seasoning gave the degree of heat that J and I like.

There is no single definitive recipe for gumbo, you see!  I have a copy of the Original Picayune Creole Cook Book that was printed around the time of the Great War (looking backward nostalgically), in which there's an entire chapter of just Creole Gumbo recipes -- nine of them!  There's Gumbo Filé, Turkey Gumbo, Squirrel or Rabbit Gumbo, Okra Gumbo, Crab Gumbo, Oyster Gumbo, Shrimp Gumbo Filé, Green or Herb Gumbo and Cabbage Gumbo.  Some are simpler and some more numerous of ingredients.  Some have chicken, some beef, sausage, veal, or oyster-liquor and water as their soup base in various combinations; some have a roux and some don't.

Gumbo, to me, is one of the few soup/stews which are good year-round -- and why wouldn't it be, considering the wide variety of ingredients appropriate!  What I put in depends on what I have in the fridge.  These days, of course, I usually make mine higher in fat and lower in carby ingredients (I never use roux), but the one I made yesterday was pretty low-fat, only because I expected to be eating/drinking higher carb (oh, that king cake...) -- and we know that it's when high-carb and high-fat MEET that we have the most trouble!

It turned out DELICIOUS.  Since I used crayfish (first time for me), I left out the Andouille sausage that I usually include.  It's therefore more seafoody and lighter than most of my renditions, but all the more reminiscent of N'Orleans.

The peppery goodness of it makes it appropriate for a warm summer evening, as well as a cold snowy winter one.  With every day that passes the leftovers get tastier, even though the vegetables kinda disintegrate ... which makes the soup thicker and less broth-like as time goes by. 

For the record:  people think that the okra makes this stew "slimy" but that's absolutely NOT TRUE.  If you slice fresh okra to put in it, there is a sliminess to them, but it doesn't survive cooking!  If you eat someone's gumbo and there's a "stringy" or "slimy" texture, that means they don't know how to use filé powder correctly!  The OPCCB informs us that this stuff should NEVER be put into the cooking pot, but added to the bowl or tureen at the last minute, and never re-heated.  ...THAT is why traditional recipes are so much better when taken from a period source, not from an ignorant modern transcriber!  ;-)


  1. Interesting tip about the okra! I've always hated the slime...

    1. yeah -- that's the main reason I usually use frozen sliced okra in my gumbo! :-) if I find fresh okra at the store that's so beautiful I can't resist, nowadays i'm more inclined to make the delicious roasted recipe from the Mayfields' "Paleo Comfort Foods" book.

  2. Sounds good to me Tess ... thanks for sharing

    All the best Jan

    1. :-) you're welcome! ...a taste of the New World for the Old.... (in my opinion, New Orleans has the best cuisine on this side of the pond. we have a lot of interesting combinations, but NOLA combines French, Hispanic, African and Native American tastes amazingly)

  3. And as gross as it may sound , I LOVE the nerds blizzards from Dairy Queen!! Somehow nerds and vanilla soft serve just work :Woman Trade fair

  4. I will try to use lamb for it. Okra and eggplant are ultimate comfort veggies!