I thought I would share my Gumbo experience with you. My mother-in-law, Carol, gave me some of her fresh okra from her garden. So I thought I would make some Gumbo. I like to peruse the internet for various recipes, read the reviews, and then take from each recipe and make it my own. The main recipe I learned from was Paula Deen’s Gumbo Recipe.
I am not a “follow the rules” exactly kind of girl. I am, but, I’m not. As far as recipes go, I am not. I take recipes as suggestions.
Bacon on the right. Stewing the okra with the tomatoes on the left.
I started with bacon. I browned the bacon in the cast-iron Dutch oven. I removed the bacon with a slotted spoon (to leave all the wonderful drippings behind.). Follow that by cooking the sausage. You can use Andouille sausage, but I’m not crazy about it so I prefer the smoked sausage. Once the sausage is done, remove it with the slotted spoon. Gumbo is about using what’s in you pantry/refrigerator. I found some fajita seasoned chicken strips and that’s what I added for the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken with the slotted spoon.
I added some more olive oil to the drippings, about 2 TBS, added the butter, then sprinkled in the flour to make the roux. The many reviews I read, warned repeatedly to not burn the roux! If you burn the roux, throw it out and start over, or your Gumbo will be ruined! Below left is how the roux looks like as you begin to stir. Below right is when the roux is ready. It takes about 10 minutes of constant stirring.
Roux at starting
Roux when done
I’m stirring and stirring the roux so it won’t burn. My wisk is a little wonkie. Follow my advise and don’t be a cheapskate and buy a new wisk! As I was standing there, constantly wisking the roux, it splashed up and hit my soft tender inner forearm skin. I was able to grab a towel and wipe away the burning fluid. As I wiped away the roux from my skin, I notice the top layer of my skin went with it! Second degree burns! Mind you, I’m still stirring my roux! I’m thinking I need to cool off this burn ASAP but my roux will burn! It hurts REALLY bad! I holler for Len to come help me. He gets to the kitchen and I hand over my wisk and ask him to keep stirring the roux while I take care of my burn. I cool off the burn and put the appropriate ointment on it and get back to my roux.
It’s burning! I can smell it! I knew Len was watching me and not paying attention to my roux. I quickly stir and stir my roux, hoping to save it. I even passed a tear or two in grief over my possibly ruined roux. I worked so hard at getting it just right and there is no way I’m starting over! I either get nose blind to the burn smell or it recovers and stopped smelling burned.
I get my emotions together, it’s only food. I was out of bell pepper, so my Gumbo is minus a main ingredient. I also forgot the garlic. Once my stew is at the simmer point, I added a few shakes of garlic powder to compensate. One of the recipes I reviewed pretty much pureed the vegetable mixture – onion/celery/green pepper. I didn’t want to do that so I finely diced my veggies.
Diced vegetables added to the roux and cooked for about 10 minutes.
I also changed the tomatoes. I used one can of diced tomatoes and one can of Rotel diced tomatoes. My “hot” will come from the Rotel. I also read to simmer the okra in the diced tomatoes first. The acid in the tomatoes prevents the okra from getting slimy.
I obtained the flat leaf parsley from the small pot I have on the front porch. Rinse off the parsley! I didn’t rinse it well enough and cut up a small caterpillar. Yes. I know. Totally grossed me out. Even grosser, I found another caterpillar, this one intact. I do believe I will be getting my herbs from the grocery store from now on. I sure hope this Gumbo isn’t a disaster. I’ve tried so hard.
I also messed up by putting in the green onions with the onion/celery/green pepper mixture at the beginning. It cooked for a long time! It would have been better if I had added it at the end with the shrimp. as instructed, in the original recipe. Len gave it an 8 out of 10 star rating. I bet the bell pepper and putting in the green onions at the end would up this rating to a 10 star.
My thoughts overall……it will be the once a year Gumbo I make when I get fresh okra from my mother-in-law’s garden. It was really really good! The flavor was rich and robust, the roux perfect. The okra was not slimy at all. I would definitely not scrimp on the shrimp. I scrimped. I thought I had plenty of meat so only one bag of shrimp was necessary. Get 2 little bags or one big bag! Add plenty of shrimp.
It was a nice Sunday afternoon, cook for hours, in the kitchen, kind of day.