as seen in the Monterey Herald;
With my beloved 49ers headed to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years, the game taking place in New Orleans and the fact that both teams playing will be coached by a member of the same family … I know I’m serving gumbo!
If you’re not familiar with gumbo, let me help you. The dish is the official cuisine of Louisiana. Gumbo originated in southern Louisiana in the 18th century. It was first mentioned in 1802 by a Harvard librarian who raved about a dish he experienced while on a trip through Louisiana, where a thick soup made with shrimp and okra was served over rice and was listed in various cookbooks in the latter half of the 19th century.
Gumbo combines ingredients and the culinary techniques of several cultures, such as French, German, Spanish, West African and the native Choctaw Indians. Gumbo’s roots are tied directly to the history of the land. As slaves were brought from West Africa to work on plantations, they brought with them some of the foods and ingredients that reminded them of home. The French influence in the area took hold and brought methods of sauces and knowledge of sausage-making and spices acquired via Spain.
It is hard to know exactly who or what inspired gumbo, but I sure am glad they did. I think gumbo is one of those foods you must know how to make. So much so that I taught Honorable No. 1 son how to make it, because it is quintessential man food!
Gumbo can vary depending upon the area of Louisiana where you are partaking of the delicacy. In New Orleans (properly pronounced “Nawrlens”) you will find Creole gumbo, which typically consists of shellfish, most commonly shrimp or crab (although crayfish and oyster-laden versions spring up around the colder water months). Cajun gumbo will consist of chicken or duck, Tasso ham and andouille sausage.
Tradition frowns upon the mixing of meats with shellfish and disrupts true Bayou beliefs. Traditionally, gumbo will enlist the flavoring attributes of the “Holy Trinity,” a signature of Creole and Cajun cooking consisting of diced celery, onion and green bell pepper. This combination is cooked in a uniquely thickened stock that is dark and mudlike in color and consistency. Another differentiation between Cajun and Creole gumbo is that the Cajun version depends solely on two key ingredients of Gumbo, okra and gumbo file to thicken its stock. File powder, as it is generally known, is a fine powder of ground sassafras leaves. This powder not only thickens the stew but adds a distinct flavor that is gumbo and is introduced at the end of the cooking process. Okra is a West African flowering plant in the mallow family and the edible seed pods are primarily used in stews such as gumbo. These pods contain a slimy, almost mucus-like substance that thickens while cooking.
The Creole version uses both okra and the file powder, but also commissions a dark roux to thicken and flavor the stew. Roux is a classic French term for a combination of flour and butter cooked together and used to thicken soup and sauces. Roux can be prepared in three stages: white, which is very lightly cooked but has the most thickening power and lightest flavor; blonde, which refers to the color achieved by allowing the flour to toast and take on a tan color, giving a slightly nutty flavor to the substance being thickened; and brown, in which case the butter and the flour both toast to a dark, almost chocolate-like color.
Brown is the weakest in thickening power but the most flavor-enhancing of the three versions. Although many Cajun foods can be very spicy, gumbo usually is not prepared spicy, the spice is added to the topping with hot sauces like Crystal or Tabasco and traditionally gumbo is served over rice.
I have seen a number of variations to gumbo, including gumbo made with no meat or shellfish. When Catholics were expected to abstain from eating meat during Lent, a meatless variety was often served. This variety combined a large number of leafy greens, typically including turnips, Brassica juncea mustard greens and spinach. I once served a spectacular Mushroom Gumbo that uses no meat and may be one of the best versions I have ever tasted. But for this historic football game coming our way on Feb. 3 ,break out a large pot, start early and be ready to go by game time with this exceptional gumbo recipe that I have perfected over the years. I crossbreed the two styles and, let me tell you, I get rave reviews. Right Mr. Schip!?
1 T. vegetable oil
4 lbs. boneless, chicken thighs, skin on
1 lb. andouille sausage cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
½ lb. tasso ham or smoked pit ham cut into ? inch pieces
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup all purpose flour
2 T. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried mustard
½ t. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground fennel seed
1 T. salt
3 bay leaves
9 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
½ C. chopped green onions
¼ C. chopped parsley
2 T. file powder
Steps: In a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven or large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper, place in the pan in batches and allow to cook till skin is crispy and brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the sausage and ham and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes.
Add to the pan the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly for 10 to 15 minutes to make a dark tan roux the color of graham cracker meal.
Add the paprika, mustard, cayenne, chili powder, salt and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Stirring, slowly add the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for ½ hour.
Add the reserved chicken to the pot and simmer for half an hour longer, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface. To finish, stir in the green onions, parsley and file powder; mix till combined and its ready to serve.
Spoon rice into the bottom of deep bowls or large cups and ladle the gumbo on top. Set out your favorite Louisiana hot sauce