Everyman’s (and Everywoman’s) Gumbo.

The heart of this gumbo came from an Acadian who had moved back to Canada.

But in August 1992, just after Hurricane Andrew bounce off Florida and slammed into Central Louisiana he rushed back to his family home in Atchafalaya to help his old friends living in the Delta.

Those with food or live catches tossed whatever veggies, meat, seafood and spices they had left after the storm into a well-scrubbed half 55-gallon drum and made rice in the other half of the steam-cleaned drum. It might have been the first time that Roux – the wonderful Cajun thickening agent – was ever blended in the bottom of a steel drum.  (Although, knowing those fine people, it probably wasn’t.)

This recipe is a modification of that a great gumbo–pulled from the cuisine Africa, Spain and France. It seemed to feed everyone who showed up that soggy summer week.

Serves 12 as main dish and 20 as soup.

Ingredients

1.5   cups     all-purpose flour

1.5   cups     bacon fat, duck fat, lard, butter or oil

8   slices     smoked bacon

1.5     cups     green pepper, cut in 1/2″ pieces

3   stalks      celery — cut in 1/2″ pieces

1.5   cups      red pepper, cut in 1/2″ pieces

8   cloves      garlic, minced

2   cups        onions, cut in 1/2″ pieces

2   lbs.         chicken, boned in bite-size pieces

1    lb           Tasso, (Cajun smoked pork) in chunks

2     lbs.         shrimp, large or jumbo, shelled *

1      lbs.         blue crab meat — picked clean

1.5   lbs.        crawfish tails — shelled, cleaned **

2       lbs.       Dungeness crab, cracked and partially shelled

1        lbs.       Andouille or other spicy smoked sausage — cut 1/4″ thick

10     cups       shrimp, fish or chicken stock

2      ea          bay leaf

2      tbsp     thyme

2      tbsp     Old Bay Seafood seasoning

10     each      green onions, cut in 1/2″ pieces

12      cups     cooked rice

Instructions

  • Make stock. If using shrimp or seafood shells or bones strain carefully, and set aside.
  • Clean the shrimp, crab and crawfish and set aside.
  • Cut vegetables and garlic and set aside
  • Into a heavy, 12-quart stockpot or enameled Dutch Oven make roux to a medium brown as described below.  8 pieces of bacon and duck fat is my favorite base..
  • Quickly add chopped vegetables and garlic, stir well over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Add sausage and Tasso and cook for another five minute, stirring well.
  • Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add in stock, bring to boil, lower to simmer. Cook for 60 minutes, stirring well.
  • Add crab and crawfish and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Add shrimp, stir, remove pot from heat and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped green onion and serve over a bunch of rice as a main dish, or just about a ½-cup in a bowl for a soup.

Notes:

Yes, for you purists, I know his recipe does not use okra, but it’s as it was made by people who grew up with gumbo.

Many, including me, prefer to use spot shrimp and cook with heads on. It adds lots of flavor.

Some don’t think using whole crawfish is worth the effort and either use picked crawfish meat or just add more crab.

Making your roux: Here is where you make or break almost every Cajun dish you create.

A roux is a one-to-one mixture of flour to equal amount of butter, duck fat, lard, bacon fat, or olive oil. Put your oil in the bottom of a heavy pot over a medium heat which will hold the gumbo; add about ½ of the flour to the heated oil or butter, stir well with a wooden spoon or flat-edged wooden spatula for at least 30-seconds. When well mixed, slowly add another portion of flour and keep it up until all the flour is in the pan.

You must stir the roux constantly, never leaving the pot–not to pee, yell at the dogs or answer the door, until the roux is a dark, rich mahogany or chocolate in color.

Anticipate a wonderful aroma when the roux is nearly just perfect. The lower the heat and slower the cooking the better it will be. You could be looking at about 30 minutes depending on the heat. It seems to go faster with zydeco playing in the background.

–Recipe adapted by Andrew Schneider


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