Penny aka Jeroxie. Late for a gumbo party no less! This is a truly shocking move given my love for all things Gulf Coast, particularly New Orleans and the surrounding Cajun country. I was married in a New Orleans voodoo temple after all, not to mention that last year I even made gumbo z'herbes in a guest post for none other than Penny herself!
But better late than never, right? And anyway, gumbo is even more delicious the next day.
Now, usually I look at International Incident Parties as a great excuse to challenge myself and come up with something new and creative (and sometimes kind of weird). But gumbo is so perfect already that I thought this time - just this once!- I'd do my best to honor this classic and beautiful dish as is. And so rather than share a recipe, I thought instead I'd share the general method and what I feel to be the heart and soul of a good gumbo.
But first, some terminology. Many people think that "Cajun" and "Creole" and interchangeable - this is most definitely not the case. Very simply put, in culinary terms Creole refers to the city cuisine of New Orleans, while Cajun refers to the foods of the countryside and bayou. The Cajuns are descended from the French Acadians of Nova Scotia who emigrated to the Louisiana Bayou to escape religious persecution in the eighteenth century, while the New Orleans Creoles are descended from the French, Spanish, and free people of color. As a general rule (though all rules are made to be broken) Cajun food tends to be more spicy and "one-pot," while Creole foods generally have a more clear connection with traditional French cuisine, though it is unmistakably a distinct cuisine of its very own.
A New Orleans Creole gumbo typically contains seafood and tomatoes and is made with a seafood stock, while it's more common for a Cajun gumbo to contain sausage and chicken and more liberal doses of cayenne pepper. But one thing these gumbos have in common is that they begin with a roux.
And why is that? Because a gumbo without a roux isn't gumbo, it's stew.
After all, without a roux, how are you going to get that glorious thick broth that's loaded with layers of flavor? Mmmm....
Drick's Rambling Cafe.
Okay - so what do you need to make a great Cajun gumbo? First, the right music. Get yourself some tunes by Clifton Chenier, King of the Zydeco - Poppa Trix and I have over 200, and let me tell you, I could not stir my roux (or anything else, for that matter) without it:
I made my roux a medium chocolate color for this gumbo, using 3/4 cup each oil and flour. Next, you must have what is known as the trinity - diced onions, celery, and green pepper. Add this to your roux when your roux is finished and saute, along with your seasonings. I like to use a homemade Cajun spice blend with lots of Cayenne pepper, thyme, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, white pepper, black pepper, salt, and onion powder.
Next requirement: stock. You can either use chicken stock you just made (saving the chicken meat for the gumbo, of course) or left over chicken stock (since I had some, that's what I did). I used about 2 quarts.
At this point, it's time to add the proteins. Traditionally, Andouille is the sausage of choice, but in a nod to my locale, I used some local spicy pork and sage sausage, which I fried until crispy, sliced into coins, and then added to the pot. I also used about a pound of boneless chicken thighs.
For your Complete Gumbo Experience, you just need a few more things: Creole boiled rice, hot sauce (I recommend Crystal), sliced green onions, light and crispy French bread, and of course a beer - preferably Abita. And now it's time to eat.
La, chere, that's not so hard, is it?