Introduction: Simple, Easy Gumbo
There are a lot of gumbo recipes out there. The goal of this is to share the recipe I grew up eating in as few steps as possible.
I rarely ever make the same gumbo pot twice. When it comes to ingredients there is a lot of room for preference. Keep that in mind as you follow the steps and feel free to change anything you like.
For this particular round of gumbo we used:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped red peppers
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1 pound chopped okra
2 cloves crushed garlic
If you want to use pre-chopped frozen vegetables to make it easier that works fine as well.
The only things I would stress as must have ingredients are parsley and green onions. They add as much visual appeal as taste.
Now when it comes to spices and meat it's a combination of whatever is on hand and whatever your preference is:
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- Tabasco Sauce
- Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
- Chicken Flavored Base
- Gumbo File'
The meat can be anything. In this case we used a mixture of chicken, sausage and pork. Pork isn't commonly used in gumbo but the idea of this recipe is to use whatever you have lying around and ready to go.
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Step 1: Heat Olive Oil in a Pot
Rule #1 for this recipe is to be attentive in the first few stages to avoid burning anything.
Pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil into the pot and heat it on medium for a couple of minutes.
Step 2: Add Vegetables and Water
Once the oil is heated add the onions, peppers, and celery. Let them cook and soften for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the vegetables have browned a bit add the okra and cook down to almost a mush, taking care not to scorch it. Add water to keep the ingredients from burning.
Add a few pinches of chicken base (as much or as little to fit your taste) or about 1/2 a quart of chicken stock if you wish. The juice (the brown soup consistency you imagine when you think of gumbo) will just start to accumulate in the pot.
Add more water as needed.
Most gumbo recipes call for making a "roux", the base of most Creole recipes which gives a thick consistency and a dark color to the Gumbo.
In this case we rely on the okra for thickening and the base of the flavor. Using this method instead of a roux will result in a lighter color for the Gumbo.
Step 3: Cut Meat
While the vegetables are simmering cut up your meat. Some people like andouille (smoked Cajun sausage) in their Gumbo but any sausage will do. You need not even use sausage, any combo of meat or seafood will do. Pictured above we are cutting up chicken, pork, and sausage. Add as much or as little as you want.
Step 4: Add Meat
Once you've cut the meat toss it in the pot. In this case our meat was leftover from another meal so we took all of the gravy and juice from the bag and threw it in the pot as well. There won't be a lot of juice yet so we will add 4 or 5 cups of water.
Step 5: Add Spices, Taste Test, and Simmer
Add your preference of spices and flavors. We use some Tabasco, Tony's Chachere's, Parsley Flakes, and 1 bay leaf. Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer. Add flavors (and water if you need to dilute) until it fits your taste.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Let the Gumbo simmer. The longer it sits the more the flavors meld.
You may want to add another ingredient, Gumbo File' (ground sassafras leaves). There's a big debate as to whether File' adds thickening, flavoring, or both. Either way be careful because it is very strong and adding too much can ruin the Gumbo. Always add the File' to individual bowls instead of the entire pot.
Step 7: Serve and Enjoy!
Serve the Gumbo with rice. I grew up with baked sweet potatoes and bread as a side. People in other areas of Louisiana add potato salad to their Gumbo, but I personally have never tried this. I encourage you to experiment and eat whatever you desire!