Some people say the best way to mark the seasons in Louisiana is through a culinary calendar. Crawfish come into season in the winter; shrimp boats go out in spring; gardeners pick tomatoes and okra in summer; and everyone makes Gumbo in the fall. That’s when all the ingredients finally come together. The soul of New Orleans cuisine, this flavourful stew is named for the West African word for okra — gombo — and can feature any number of ingredients, but most commonly, shrimp, crab, chicken, duck, and sausage.
Longboat Key Crab
Gumbo was originally created in New Orleans by the French attempting to make bouillabaisse in the New World. The Spanish contributed onions, peppers, and tomatoes; the Indians contributed filé, or ground sassafras leaves; the French gave the roux to the stew and spices from the Caribbean. Over time it became less of a bouillabaisse and more of what is called gumbo. Later the Italians blasted it with garlic. A well-made gumbo offers a savoury combination of tastes and textures, but all gumbos start with a roux. After the initial browning of fat and flour, other decisions are left to the cook's discretion and what ingredients are readily available. Most gumbos are seasoned with garlic and what Louisianans call the 'holy trinity' — bell pepper, onion, and celery. Some cooks add in okra, but an equal number don't.
Edible Sarasota, an amazing free magazine
I found this recipe in 'Edible Sarasota' while I was on Longboat Key this past Christmas. A warm and comforting dish for a cold winter evening, Gumbo is often served during Mardi Gras, which is just around the corner on March 4, and marks the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season — how perfect is that?
Seafood Gumbo with Shrimp, Crab & Sausage
10 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp red pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes with green chilis
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp hot sauce
2 1/2 pounds shrimp, shells on
24 oysters, undrained
1 1/4 lb lump crab meat, picked over
1 lb spicy dry-cured sausage, such as andouille or chorizo, cooked and sliced
2 cups fresh or frozen okra, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
Cajun seasoning, to taste
Bring chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to low, cover, and keep hot. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Gradually sprinkle in flour. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deep brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent scorching.
Add onion, green onion, bell pepper, garlic, red pepper, and salt. Cook until vegetables are soft. Slowly add half the hot chicken broth, stirring. Once combined, add remaining chicken broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate at least overnight, up to 2 days.
To finish and serve, warm gumbo over medium heat. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add shrimp, cover, remove from heat and let stand until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Peel and devein shrimp and add to gumbo. Add crab, sausage, okra, parsley, bay leaf, and Cajun seasoning to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 60 minutes, the longer it simmers, the spicier it will be. Add the oysters at the last minute and simmer about 5 minutes. Serve over rice and top with additional green onions, if desired.