First, You Make a Roux...

The seasons are a'changin' here at Casa 3917. And what better way to welcome Fall than a big pot of Gumbo! And we've been enjoying the perfect days for it, too...daytime temps in the 70's, nightimes dropping into the 50's. I love September, don't you?

Of course, it gets a little confusing around this time of the year. Take this week for instance: we have enjoyed seeing both the Greensboro Grasshoppers in their Minor League Baseball Championship Series, as well as the Duke Blue Devils win their home football game opener. Can basketball be far behind?

Oh well...where were we? Ah, yes...Gumbo!

Now, the classic Nawlins recipe for Gumbo typically begins with "first, you make a roux..." However, for me...since our days living in Louisiana...Gumbo has always started with our favorite Pepper Shrimp recipe a couple, t'ree days before. (Not a typo. Most folks from Sout' Louisiana lost their H's long ago...:~\). And it also helps if you have some leftover chicken and ham in the fridge. Bam! As Emeril would say.

And, before you can make your roux, you have to gather together your veggies to go in your Gumbo with your meats and seafood selections. And in our case, "gather" is a literal term. So, out to the garden for some okra (also called "gumbo," which is where this savory stew got its name), tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Bam, bam!

Alas, one sad thing about September is that the Summer garden is winding down. Fewer tomatoes...fewer peppers...less okra. Sigh. I'm excited that my cotton bolls are beginning to pop open...but you can't eat cotton. At least, I don't think you can.

Back to the kitchen...

Then you get out the two heaviest pots you own...one to make the roux; one to get the veggies going and eventually to host the simmering stew.

Here we go!


After you get the party started in the pots, you will have to watch the roux closely...and stir it constantly. You want it to brown slowly, but never to scorch.

And once you get it all together for the simmering phase, you can take a little break before you prepare the rice. For me, that means a pleasant stroll through the Rose Garden...where all of the David Austin roses are reblooming. Every single bush!

Here's a beautiful bloom on one of the Gertrude Jekyll's next to to patio in the Rose Garden. I so wish you could smell it!


Did I mention how much I love September?

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Here you go...my recipe for Gumbo. It's a combination of about 3 or 4 Louisiana recipes to get the flavors just the way we like...adding okra, and leaving out oysters and andouille sausage. See what you think!

Gumbo

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or bacon grease...or a combination)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined; cooked
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken (as in leftover rotisserie chicken) - opt.
1 cup cooked smoked ham, diced (can use thick-sliced deli) - opt.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or bacon grease...or a combination)
1-2 cups okra, cut crosswise
1 onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 can diced tomatoes, liquid included
1 can tomato sauce
2 T. tomato paste
1 quart water, stock, or some combination - heated
1 cayenne pepper pod, whole
2-4 T. Parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (or seasoned salt), to taste - depending on whether stock was used, etc.
ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Cooked rice

Directions:

1. Add 2 tablespoons each oil and flour to a heavy skillet over low heat, and whisk together quickly. Continue cooking and stirring until a dark roux forms. This can take 30-45 minutes...the lower the heat, the longer it takes, and the better it tastes! Watch carefully.
2. Meanwhile, in a heavy Dutch oven-type pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Stir in okra and cook until okra is tender; add bell pepper, celery, and onion, and cook until transparent; then add garlic, stirring constantly to keep the garlic from burning.
3. When roux is ready, add the HEATED liquid (water, stock, or some combination), as cold liquid will cause the roux to curdle. Continue to stir until liquid begins to thicken. Add this to the pot with the cooked vegetables.
4. Mix in tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Add salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and the cayenne pepper pod. Stir in cooked chicken and/or ham if desired. Cover, and cook slowly for 60 minutes.
5. Stir in cooked shrimp. Cook and stir for a few minutes, with the lid off. Adjust seasonings. If too thick, add a little tomato juice or stock (chicken or fish).
6. Serve in large bowls over a mound of hot, cooked rice, along with cornbread muffins. Enjoy!




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