There’s one thing about Gumbo that you should know. There are so many versions, it’s utterly ridiculous.
You can leave in or delete many of the ingredients below. The roux (the shortening/flour mixture), is pretty much a staple in gumbo, but some people leave that out and use a tomato base. I personally have never had a Gumbo with tomatoes, and I probably never will. I know I said you can change things up, but I could never imagine making a gumbo with tomatoes. My great grandmother, cajun as you can get, told me that a good gumbo should look like dirty mop water. No, it doesn’t sound appetizing, but that’s pretty much the way it looks. Now, back to the different ways to make gumbo. The recipe below calls for a shortening/flour mix for the roux. But many people use vegetable oil. Also, if you don’t want to use water, you can use shrimp stock, chicken stock, vegetable stock… You can leave the chicken out, and substitute it for duck, rabbit, squirrel, nutria, raccoons and opossums. You can substitute the Blue Crab for Dungeness Crab (though don’t let my mom know you did that, cuz that’s not new orleans), you can use a different type of sausage (a more cajun one, or andouille). Leave the oysters out if you want!
The bottom line? No two families make gumbo the same.
But this is THE way my mom always makes her gumbo.
1 cup shortening
1 cup flour (the flour and shortening combo make the roux. add more roux to make your gumbo thicker, and less for a thinner gumbo)
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 gallons water or chicken stock
1 chicken, cut up
1 lb smoked sausage, cut in 1/4 inch slices
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
2 (8 oz) can oysters, with the water (boiled, not smoked)
3 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 pounds blue crab, cracked down the middle
Heat the shortening on medium high in a large cast iron skillet. Once melted add the flour and combine. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, to a dark peanut butter color. This takes quite a while, just go with it.
***disclaimer: roux needs to be stirred constantly, if you walk away for even a minute, it will burn. If this happens, throw it away and WASH YOUR SKILLET. Wiping it won’t do because the taste and smell will still be there***
When the roux reaches a color just a bit darker than peanut butter, add the vegetables, combine and continue cooking and stirring. (be careful not to spatter yourself when you add the veggies). When the vegetables are tender and the roux reaches the chocolate color, carefully transfer it to a heavy bottomed large pot. Add the water (or stock) and stir until the roux incorporates with the water. Add the chicken, seasonings and bay leaves. Simmer for about a 1/2 hour, then add the sausage. Continue cooking for an additional 1/2 hour. BTW…it should have a stew like consistency.
Add the oysters, shrimp and crab about 10 minutes before serving. Re-season with salt, pepper if needed
Serve in large soup or gumbo bowls over about 1/2 cup of cooked rice per serving. Sprinkle a little gumbo file (fee-lay) on top before serving, if you so desire
Oh!! Don’t eat the bay leaves!!!