Everybody's got a gumbo recipe, and so do we. We borrowed a tip from Enola Prudhomme (who has a wonderful low fat cookbook full of tasty Louisiana recipes), a little bit from the Gumbo Shop (where the gumbo is primo), some spice from Chuck Taggart (who has a great page of creole advice there), some of Joe Cahn's wisdom (we are graduates of the New Orleans School of Cooking, you know), and added some ideas of our own.

Think of Gumbo as having four basic parts to it:

Traditional Roux -
the basic ingredient that gives gumbo it's characteristic flavor, is a flour and oil mixture that is laboriously stirred over medium heat until it turns a deep, dark brown color. This could take hours. Quick roux is a controversial variation on the flour/oil paste, substituting very high heat. This only takes 15 minutes or so, but is fraught with danger!!!! The mixture stays very hot for a while and can cause serious burns. Both perspectives rely on cooked oil, which the dietitians tell me is a bad thing.
Enola Prudhomme suggests using just the flour (about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup for this gumbo, heated in a very clean iron skillet over high heat - constantly stirring with a whisk until the flour begins to turn color. Get it as dark as you like, keeping in mind that at some point you'll create powdered charcoal. Empty into a ceramic container and set aside.
The vegetable stock -
comes from equal parts diced onion, celery, and bell pepper - (the trinity. Simmer in a skillet and add to the gumbo pot (use a tall heavy one with a lid). To this add some kind of strained stock made from either rendered shrimp peels, or chicken bones. Bring to a boil and cut the heat to simmer.  Call one of the kids into the kitchen and ask them to slice the french bread. Then tell them they are sure growing up fast and that you are the luckiest parent in the world to have such a fine, handsome, child.  While things are heating up, place 1/2 lb. of okra into a food processor and whiz the hell out of it. Adding okra to the gumbo is not a matter of taste - Our Creator gave us okra for the enhancement of our lives - it's in the Bible! However, some people (usually folks of the northern persuasion) have an aversion to this slimy pod. They are to be pitied, and I suppose one may do without it. Add the okra to the gumbo pot and stir.  Have your favorite Aunt come over and look over your cooking - and tell her she's had a big impact on your development - and tell her you love her a bunch!

Slowly add the roux after it has cooled a bit, stirring as you go. If you dump hot roux into the stock you will most certainly have an explosion. With the roux and okra added, the mixture should start to thicken to a nice texture.  Now you have a decision to make - Is this going to be a chicken and sausage -or- seafood gumbo?

Here's a Pretty Good All Purpose New Orleans/Creole/Cajun Seasoning -
that works on fish, beef, and vegetable dishes to get that old New Orleans taste. Just mix it up, sprinkle on, and bake or broil. It even works well when added to flour/cornmeal for dredging chicken before frying - and you can add it to your gumbo to taste - allowing you to add salt, a salt substitute, or not. Think of this seasoning as folk music - It is cheaper and more fun to make it yourself.

This recipe is courtesy of Joe Cahn at the New Orleans School of Cooking with some of our own additions. You'll find you'll alter the basic mix to suit your own tastes. Phone your brother-in-law up tell him to get over to your house with your socket wrenches - and to bring his whole family with him.

--For chicken and sausage gumbo - use available stuff - 1 lb. of skinless chicken breasts and a lb. of smoked sausage (use turkey kielbasa for less fat). Sprinkle the diced chicken with the seasoning and a little flour and fry with the sliced and cubed sausage until tender, then add to the gumbo pot. This dish is finished when you are sure the chicken is fully cooked.

--For seafood gumbo - use available stuff again - 1 or 2 lbs. of frozen shrimp is the choice most of us non-coastal types have to make - peeled, well rinsed, and de-veined. Sprinkle with the seasoning and flash fry with a drop or two of oil until pink and add to the pot. If you are very brave - add a few oysters. A delightful addition is to add some lump crab meat, even if you have to use that canned stuff from the South China Sea. I squeeze the water out of the meat before adding to the pot, simply because I'm afraid of other people's water. I have seen some frozen crawfish tails in my local market, but haven't tried them. Fresh crawfish would be wonderful here. You can even add one whole crawfish per bowl for effect! Add more seasoning to taste - but be careful - there's three kinds of pepper in that stuff! Increase the heat to boiling and cook for a 10 minutes.  Send one of the kids over to see if your neighbor is hungry.

Make some rice.  Serve this up on plates in big bowls with a dollop of rice in the middle. Sprinkle some parsley on the top and serve with a side of french bread.  I don't know how this stuff keeps as leftovers, because we never have any leftover.

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