Gumbo, Bayou Style

Gumbo is true Louisiana Bayou food. It was originally the food of the poor, since it was made from whatever you had on hand at the time of the making. And because it was made with whatever you had on hand, every pot would be different from the last. Who knows exactly what its roots are, since it is rumored to have come from many sources. Gumbo is often cited as an example of the melting-pot nature of Louisiana cooking, but trying to sort out the origins and evolution of the dish is highly speculative. Gumbo may have been based on traditional native dishes, or may be a derivation of the French dish bouillabaisse, or Choctaw stew, but most likely all of these dishes contributed to the original recipe. Gumbo crosses all class barriers, appearing on the tables of the poor as well as the wealthy. Although ingredients might vary greatly from one cook to the next, and from one part of the state to another, a steaming bowl of fragrant gumbo is one of life’s cherished pleasures, as emblematic of Louisiana as chili is of Texas.

The name gumbo derives from a West African word for okra, ki ngombo. The use of filé (dried and ground sassafras leaves) was a contribution of the Choctaws and, possibly, other local tribes and roux has its origin in French cuisine, although the roux used in gumbos is much darker than its Gallic cousins. So it is a hodge podge of many different recipes from many parts of the world, and it’s all brought together with love.

Today, the gumbos people are most familiar with are seafood gumbo and chicken and sausage gumbo. But that merely scratches the surface of gumbo cookery, both historical and contemporary.

I just made a big pot of gumbo that was a combination of chicken, sausage and shrimp. I used both file and okra in it too. Some recipes will use either one or the other, but I like it with both. And of course, you have to start with the Holy trinity – green peppers, onions and celery. The Holy trinity is the basis for all good Cajun and/or Creole food.

Gumbo with Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp

I used up some more of my tomatoes and peppers from Janet and Bob’s garden. Gift From The Garden

2-3 TBSP Cajun or Creole spice mix

5 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup flour

1 lb sausage

1-2 lbs chicken

1 lb large shrimp or prawns

2 cups okra, sliced

1 onion, diced medum

1 green pepper, diced medium

3 stalks celery, diced medium

1-2 TBPS garlic

2 cups diced tomatoes

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1-2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 TBSP file powder, optional

salt & pepper to taste

cayenne and/or red pepper flales, optional to taste

cooked rice

Cook all the meat first, separately though, and set aisde.

Make your roux, with the flour and the olive oil (equal parts of both. You can also use butter, but olive oil is slightly healthier). Mix them in a hot pan until the roux is made, whisking together constantly. You can make it as light or dark as you like, but a medium to dark roux will have the best flavor and consistency. Then add the peppers, onions, celery and garlic. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions and peppers have softened and are tender.

Add all the rest of the ingredients, except the cooked shrimp, mix together well and bring to a boil, the reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and continue to cook for about 2 hours, stirring often.

Add the shrimp around the last 15 minutes of cooking and incorporate well.

While the gumbo is cooking, cook up either white rice or seasoned rice. This time I made seasoned rice by cooking it in chicken broth with some Creole spice added into the broth.

You can buy your Cajun/Creole spice already made up, or you can make it on your own. It is very easy to make.

Cajun/Creole Spice Mix

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp dried garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried onions powder

Mix everything together well and set aside.

You can top your gumbo with green onions and parsley if you like. I Gar-un-tee you’re going to love this dish. You can use all chicken, or all shrimp, or mix it up however you like. Serve it with some kind of warmed bread or biscuits, and you have just gone down to the bayous for dinner.

Spice up your days and spice up your life. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.


Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for over 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

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