In honor of Mardi Gras, I thought I’d give any veggie lovers out there my recipe for gumbo. Yes, I know all you meat lovers out there will scoff and say this goes against the very grain of gumbo, but I’ll stand strong on this one and say it’s worth a try.
First, we need a stock:
1 onion rough chopped
2-3 carrots r.c.
several slices of celery r.c
a head of garlic r.c.
1 green pepper r.c.
1-2 jalapeno r.c.
put all the veggies in a hot pan with peanut and/or sesame oil and brown them well. Add water and salt and let simmer for as long as you want.
Then, we need a roux:
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. flour
stir the flour and salt into the vegetable oil and keep on low heat for at least 15 minutes. This step is crucial. Watch your roux and stir pretty consistently. You want to let it get to the copper color of a penny (or darker, but don’t burn it). The deep roasted flavors of a slow cooked roux are essential.
Now, we need our veggies. Dice the following:
1 large yellow onion
2 green peppers
6-8 stalks of celery, with leaves
1-2 jalapenos (dice these small, and go ahead and keep the seeds)
When your roux is ready, add these to the mix along with a bit of thyme, some cayenne pepper, and a few bay leaves. The mix will be really thick, so stir constantly for a few minutes.
Add two cans of diced tomatoes. (I’ve also added a dark beer at this point to good effect).
Then add the stock (you should end up with 7-8 cups of stock).
Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and let simmer for 1-2 hours.
Next, we need some okra:
Of course, fresh is best, but frozen will work as well (I say now that I live in Iowa rather than when I learned to make this in Florida).
Fresh or frozen, slice your okra into medium thick slices.
Saute the okra in some peanut oil until it turns slightly brown and crisp (if it’s frozen, in particular, it will be kind of slimy but the sauteing will get rid of that).
Add the okra to the pot.
Now, we need some meat for the mix:
One box of Boca Italian Sausage (4 sausages). Cube the sausage into good-sized cubes, then brown in veggie or peanut oil.
One bag of Quorn “chicken tenders” (these are surprisingly good). Saute these as well until they are browned.
Add the sausage and quorn to the pot. When you get to this stage, you can turn the pot off and let it steep.
It’s also important to listen to the right music while you cook. I recommend the following:
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, “Bon Reve”
Clifton Chenier, “Bogalusa Boogie”
Neville Brothers, “Yellow Moon”
Earl King, “Street Parade” (but, of course)
Rebirth Brass Band, “Kickin’ it Live”
Preservation Hall, “Shake that Thing”
Beausoleil, “La Amour ou la Folie”
Boozoo Chavis, “Johnny Billy Goat”
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, “Funeral for a Friend”
James Booker, “Junco Partner”
of course Dr. John’s “Gumbo”
and one of my all-time favorites, Kid Simmons and the International All Stars, “Live at the Louisiana Music Factory”
I could go on on this front, but that’s plenty of good listening to get through a pot of gumbo.
For eating, cook some basmati rice with garlic and salt. Right before serving, add some Gumbo File to your gumbo and serve. Add generous doses of Louisiana hot sauce (certainly any hot sauce works, but for this dish I find the pretty vinegary ones like Louisiana style are best). Enjoy steaming hot!
And finally, you need a good dark beer. I do like to drink a bit of Abita while I cook (frankly, I think it’s an underrated beer. Sure, it’s not the greatest beer, but it does the job and fits the ambience just right). But when I get to eating this, I want something thick. Tonight, I had an Alameda Black Bear stout that really hit the spot. But anything thick and dark with plenty of roasted flavors (like your roux) will work really well.
And most of all, remember: laissez les bon temps roules!