I have this infatuation with foods that also represent happy concepts, memories I have had or hope to someday have and food that can transplant me from my day-to-day in directly into a movie or book. I cook and drink for Earnest, Hunter and for the countless films I watch almost exclusively for their food porn. I believe in food and its ability to travel me somewhere or somewhen far more quickly than it could take me to buy a plane ticket or time machine.
This is all a long-winded way of telling you that I became interested in Creole and Cajun food because of a Disney movie.
I wish I had a better anecdote to explain why making authentic gumbo was one of my gastronomic goals. It would have been nice to have a story that would have given me a little more foodie cred like, “I was practically raised by an old Creole woman and my childhood home always smelled of shrimp, catfish, and cayenne” but alas, no, it was a Disney cartoon that broke the camel’s back. And not even one of the older classic ones.
I now love Cajun food. I have been using the cuisine of New Orleans to improve my tolerance for heat in food; all that cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce. Alas, because of a serious lack of okra in the winter in Guelph, I was restricted to making jambalaya exclusively. As much as I love jambalaya, all the while I was scouring the grocery stores for the little green pods, the key ingredient in gumbo, with the hopes of crossing that particular dish off of my list of foodie goals.
And then…one day, I saw them. A whole pile of them. Okra. And in a No Frills no less.
So I made gumbo. My original intention was to make authentic gumbo but I totally gave up on locating okra AND andouille sausage at the same time in Guelph. I substituted kielbasa instead of andouille because I understand that the two are quite similar. But, since nothing else was different so I am still counting this as “authentic gumbo.” The great thing about this dish is that the recipe yields a lot so you can feed some friends or have some really impressive lunches and because it goes over a bed of rice, the recipe goes even further.
RECIPE FOR GUMBO (found via Epicurious)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 small cup onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small green bell pepper, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/4 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups cooked white rice
- and…Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco to put on top
In 4-quart heavy stock pot over moderately high heat, heat oil. Reduce heat to moderately low and whisk in flour. Cook, stirring frequently with wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, until mixture becomes dark brown and has intensely nutty aroma, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in onion, pepper, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock. Raise heat to moderate and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Add bay leaves, shrimp, sausage, and okra and simmer, uncovered, until okra is tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and stir in salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Divide rice among 4 large bowls. Ladle gumbo over, and serve with hot sauce.