Gumbo Recipes Use Seafood, Okra, Smoked Sausage and More
By Jean Teller
Gumbo recipes are as varied as the cooks who prepare the Louisiana delicacy. You start with a roux (flour and oil or butter cooked to a dark brown), or not; you add cooked okra, or not; you thicken with filé (powdered sassafras root), or not; and you add seafood (shrimp, crab, shellfish) or cooked chicken and smoked sausage.
For gumbo, anything goes.
No one can quite agree on the dish’s history, either. While many mention African, French or Choctaw beginnings with German, Creole and Cajun additions, most food historians now point to the undeniable influence of the okra stews the West African people brought to the area around New Orleans in the mid-1700s. A language lesson finds that “okra” is “ki ngombo” in a West African dialect, a region known for okra stews. Okra is a thickening agent for gumbo.
Of course, this being Louisiana, the history doesn’t stop there. Sometime along the way, a French roux was adapted, adding flavor and texture. Native Americans, notably the Choctaw tribe, introduced filé, another thickening agent. For another curve, the Choctaw word for “sassafras” is “kombo.”
One note: Gumbo aficionados don’t mix okra and filé, though combining either with a roux is fine; they also don’t mix seafood and poultry, and, other than sausage or perhaps ham and other pork pieces, they don’t include red meat. Oh, and tomatoes are debatable; go without if possible.
The Cajuns — transplanted Acadians from Nova Scotia — began fishing the Gulf waters for shellfish and shrimp, thus adding their influence. The Germans settling the region threw smoked sausage into the pot, and then in recent years, the Creoles incorporated their love of spices. And there we have gumbo.
Murky history, I know, but taste gumbo and you’ll understand that a historical perspective isn’t really necessary in this instance. What’s important is what’s added to the stockpot.
Sadie Mares, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, requests recipes for Seafood Gumbo and Chicken/Sausage Gumbo. Jeff Rodger, Ketchikan, Alaska, sends a recipe from his 45-year-old collection.
Kathy Belt, Park Rapids, Minnesota, requests a fudge recipe that does not include evaporated or condensed milk.
BREAKFAST BISCUIT RECIPES:
David King, Piedmont, Alabama, writes that back in the 1940s and ’50s, his mother baked orange biscuits that included cinnamon. He’s pretty sure the recipe came from an older version of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.
Our readers knew exactly the right recipe as most of the responses we received were from one version or another of the BHG cookbook.
Betty Schmidtlein-Savage, Richmond, California, includes a tip for grating orange peel: “To simplify, first place the orange in the freezer for 15 minutes, then push it diagonally across the grater rather than up and down. Grate only the outer rind, not the white pith.”
Senior Associate Editor Jean Teller loves a tasty bowl of gumbo, undoubtedly the influence of her Loo-zi-ann cousins.
What’s Cooking America
Gumbo — History of Gumbo
Southern Gumbo Trail
A short history of gumbo
Gumbo: The Mysterious History
Gumbo history! The Cajun and Creole influence!
• Vicki Sarske, Nebraska City, Nebraska, is looking for two recipes that were in magazines a few years ago featuring Baker’s Coconut: an Ugly Duckling Cake and a macaroon recipe that includes bread.
• Nicole McCutcheon, English, Indiana, loves lentils and would like some new recipes.
• John Walter, Lowell, Ohio, would like to find the recipe for a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries. He visited a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, and ordered sweet potato fries, which were served with a delicious dipping sauce.
• Lois Severson, Marlton, New Jersey, writes that her grandmother used to make an Easter bread that contained a thick ribbon of cottage cheese running through the middle of the loaf. The dough also contained raisins. The cottage cheese, when baked, became a golden ribbon, and was delicious, she says.
• Joyce Cass, Wilton, Iowa, remembers a recipe for icebox cake that her mother made in the 1950s. It had layers of a whipped cream mixture and chocolate wafers, and it was layered and baked in a springform pan.
If you’ve been looking for a long-lost recipe, or can provide one, please write to Recipe Box, c/o GRIT, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Email is our preferred method of communication, and requests and submissions will more likely be answered in a timely fashion if sent electronically. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number. Recipes cannot be returned; we will forward the first 10 recipes to the person who made the original request, and then file the rest for possible online or print publication. Addresses are not printed to allow us the opportunity to publish recipes before sending them on to the requesting party.
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