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5 March, 2013

GUMBO 101

Posted in : Casseroles on by : Julie

Interview with a Vampire

“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard. I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.”

― Anne RiceInterview With the Vampire

One of my favorite movies! And although the main course in “Interview” was mostly mullatto blood, I am certain someone human could have been serving this authentic Louisiana receipt!

Gumbo is a stew or soup that probably originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It typically consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell pepper and onions (a trio known in Cajun cuisine as the “holy trinity”). Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filé (kombo).

Several different varieties exist. In New Orleans, what is known as Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, and a thickener. Cajun gumbo varies greatly, but often has a dark roux with either shellfish or fowl. The Creoles of Cane River make a gumbo focused much more on filé. Sausage or ham are often added to gumbos of either variety. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish and some spices added near the end. If desired, filé powder is added after the pot is removed from heat. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice. A third, lesser-known variety, the meatless gumbo z’herbes, is essentially a gumbo of slow-cooked greens sometimes thickened with roux, with rice served on the side.

The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. Gumbo may have been based on traditional West African or native dishes, or may be a derivation of the French dish bouillabaisse. It was first described in 1802, and was listed in various cookbooks in the latter half of the 19th century. The dish gained more widespread popularity in the 1970s, after the United State Senate cafeteria added it to the menu in honor of Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender. The popularity of chef Paul Prudhomme in the 1980s spurred further interest in gumbo. The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. (source: Wikipedia)

For a taste of NOLA, try my Andouille & Chicken Gumbo:

Andouille & Chicken Gumbo

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