“crawfish pie and a file’ gumbo”- Hank Williams
There’s Creole and then there’s Cajun.
The origins of the word are a little confused. Is it Creole, is it Cajun? Does it come from New Orleans, does it come from Acadiana? Some in Mobile claim ownership. Are the recipes West Indies slave or the exiled Acadian’s, or a confused mixture of that and more?What’s in it? What would you like? Does it have a dark roux base or tomato base? For my purposes, since I’m Cajun and don’t recognize anything with tomato’s in it as “gumbo”, we’ll stick to the “Real Deal” and talk of only Acadian or Cajun gumbo.
Gumbo is a dark soup or stew. It contains just about anything a Cajun down on the farm could find to cook. Often the pot consisted of chicken, squirrel, rabbit, a handful of fresh shrimp, or a seafood gumbo with oysters, crab, shrimp, and fish. He used File’, ground Sassafras root, to thicken and spice up the concoction. The Cajun’s used flour and oil to make the roux and then sauteed the “trinity”, chopped onions, bell pepper, and celery, in the brown mixture. Next adding browned chicken pieces, Andouille sausage, okra (this is the confusing part since the origins of okra are not clearly known as used in south Louisiana cooking), simmered over low heat for several hours, and then served over rice.
Gumbo originated in the early 18th century but didn’t become popular nationally until the 1970’s mostly because of the popularity of Justin Wilson and chef Paul Prudhomme. Today it is the official dish of Louisiana and is on the menu in the US congress.
During lent Catholics would omit the meats from gumbo and use only vegetables. This was called “gumbo des herbes.”
Typically the Cajun dish will include potato salad and French toast as sides and the gumbo will be served over rice. If you’re interested, the world championship of gumbo is held every year in New Iberia, LA. If you go a good time will be passed by all.
Here’s an easy family recipe:
1 or 2 small chickens cut into pieces, browned in oil and set aside
1 lb Andouille sausage cut into small rounds
1 pkg frozen, chopped okra
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 garlic, minced
3-5 quarts water
3 bay leaf
season with cayenne pepper and salt
If the roux thing is confusing buy powered roux or jar roux. When in a hurry I use both, mixing in the water as I go. Add the roux and stir constantly until dissolved.
Add all ingredients to the roux, cook over slow heat for about one and half hours.
Serve over rice. Add Gumbo File’ to thicken and for flavor enhancement.