Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2007

By Maggie Blackwell
For The Salisbury Post
If you have a backyard garden, you may be “up to here” with tomatoes, okra, and the end of your sweet summer corn. If you don’t have a garden, or if it’s depleted, you can find these delights at the local farmers’ market.
Either way, there’s no better way to spend corn, okra and tomatoes than on a hearty pot of gumbo.
The more you study gumbo, the more you realize there is to learn about it. There are varying opinions on how it got its name, how to make it, how to thicken it, and when to serve it.
Everyone thinks of New Orleans when they think of gumbo, but you may not realize its origins come from African, Choctaw, Creole and Cajun cultures.
The opinions on the root of the word “gumbo” are as varied as opinions on how to make it. It might come from the Umbundu word for okra, which is ochingombo, having been eventually shortened to, “gombo.” Umbundu is a language spoken in Angola, where many Southern slaves came from.
If you are sensitive to shellfish, and it seems that more and more people are nowadays, take heart: gumbo can easily be made with chicken, sausage or even beef. Today’s selection of recipes includes one for chicken gumbo (it also includes shrimp and sausage; use what you like). There’s also Paula Deen’s Gumbo Casserole, with a layer of cornbread on top, and my own personal vegetarian-friendly gumbo recipe which I have developed over the years, which includes corn and butterbeans.
In making gumbo the past 20 years or so, I have discovered two big truths about it.
First, don’t add your shrimp until about the last 20 minutes. Many of us picture a pot of gumbo simmering on the stove for quite a while ó and that’s fine, but overcooked shrimp has the consistency of boiled racquetball. Toss it in about 20 minutes before serving. Soon as it’s pink, it’s done.
The second ó and most important ó lesson is all about layers. Gumbo, while simple to make, has a complex taste, because of the many veggies and spices. If you throw everything in the pot at once, you lose much of this flavor. It’s a shame to take the time and expense for a pot of gumbo and find it’s got no taste at all. So make the roux; saut your “Holy Trinity” (bell pepper, green onion and celery); add your broth and vegetables, season, and simmer.
Add each layer as an artist lovingly adds a layer to his canvas. If you take your time and love your gumbo through each layer, you will definitely taste the difference.
Roux is what keeps gumbo from being a simple soup. Optimally, gumbo should be a little thick, and the roux is the thickener. You make roux by heating butter or oil and adding flour. About a 1-to-1 ratio is best. Simmer and stir it a while until it turns a shade of brown. They say light brown roux is for Creole gumbos, and darker brown roux makes a Cajun gumbo. I don’t choose a side, but make my roux just a bit lighter than chocolate, as the darker the roux, the heartier the gumbo. If you use okra, and I do, you don’t need so much roux, as the goop from the okra thickens the gumbo as well.
Use a big pot! Most gumbo recipes feed 10. We have a 12-quart Calphalon monster and it always manages to fill up with gumbo. We eat half and freeze the rest. It’s great on a cold winter’s day to remember there’s a good gumbo in the deep freeze.
Finally, because of the layers of flavor in gumbo, it’s one of those dishes that’s definitely better the next day. So don’t feel bad at all if you serve “leftover” gumbo to friends ó it’s just at its prime.
Boudreaux’s Zydeco Stomp Gumbo
From, submitted by Lupe Boudreaux and Jason Parks
This is hot! Modify to your taste.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 C. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, chopped
1/2 pound pork sausage links, thinly sliced
1 C. olive oil
1 C. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 quarts chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) can or bottle beer
6 stalks celery, diced
4 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, with liquid
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh red chile peppers
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 C. Cajun seasoning
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat, and cook chicken until no longer pink and juices run clear. Stir in sausage, and cook until evenly browned. Drain chicken and sausage, and set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, blend olive oil and flour to create a roux. Stir constantly until browned and bubbly. Mix in garlic, and cook about 1 minute.
Gradually stir chicken broth and beer into the roux mixture. Bring to a boil, and mix in celery, tomatoes, sweet onion, diced tomatoes with peppers, red chile peppers, parsley, and Cajun seasoning. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes, stirring often.
Mix chicken, sausage and shrimp into the broth mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.
Shrimp Gumbo CasseroleBy Paula Deen
1 C. finely chopped onion
1 C. finely chopped celery
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
11/2 tsp. House Seasoning, recipe follows
1 C. chicken or fish stock
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 10-ounce package frozen cut okra
2 C. shrimp, cleaned, peeled, and deveined
1 egg, beaten
1/3 C. milk
1 12-ounce package corn muffin mix
In an iron skillet, saut onion and celery in oil. Add bay leaves, thyme, lemon-pepper season, and House Seasoning. Pour in stock and add tomatoes and okra. Cover pot and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add shrimp.
To prepare the topping, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together egg and milk, add to muffin mix, and combine until just well-blended.
Drop by tablespoonfuls on top of hot shrimp mixture, leaving the center uncovered. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.
Note: This Southern dish is usually prepared and served in an iron skillet, but may be cooked in a frying pan with an ovenproof handle.
House Seasoning
1 C. salt
1/4 C. black pepper
1/4 C. garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Maggie’s Own Vegetarian-Friendly Shrimp Gumbo
1 stick plus 1/2 stick butter
1/2 C. plain flour
5 green onions, chopped (chop a little of the green part, too)
5 stalks celery, chopped
2 large or 3 small bell peppers, chopped
1 32-ounce carton vegetable stock
1 large can chopped tomatoes, juice and all
12 roma tomatoes, quartered
3/4 pound okra, top ends removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 16-ounce package frozen baby butterbeans, or 2 C. fresh if you can find them
1 16-ounce package frozen white shoepeg corn, or 2 C. fresh
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
(Curly leaf is for garnish. Flat-leaf is for flavor. Be sure to chop some stem in there, too.)
3 3-fingered pinches of sea salt
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Cayenne pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste. Err on the side of less. You can always make it available as you serve.
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pinches chili powder
2 pounds fresh-caught large shrimp, cleaned, peeled, de-veined
In a large skillet (preferably an old iron one), melt the 1/2 stick butter and saut the onions, pepper, and celery (the “trinity”) until they are translucent.
Remove them and add the 1 stick butter. Add the flour, a little at a time, continuously stirring. Brown this over medium-low heat until it is a medium brown. This is your roux.
Stir some of the vegetable stock into the roux, and then pour it all into your biggest stock pot.
Add the remainder of the stock, the trinity, tomatoes, okra, butterbeans and corn. Stir well. Cook over medium heat until it begins to bubble a little, then add spices, turn it down and let it simmer for about 40 minutes.
At 40 minutes, add the shrimp, but if there is a vegetarian in your home, save some gumbo into a separate saucepan for them.
Stir the shrimp into the stockpot and simmer 20 minutes more, or until all the shrimp are pink.
Serve hot with hot French bread, cornbread or even a good focaccia.
This recipe serves about 20 so don’t worry about using so much butter.
It comes to about one “pat” of butter per person.
Mandy’s Mother’s Focaccia1 pkg yeast (21/4 tsp. if you have bulk)
11/2 C. warm water
4 C. flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. olive oil
Put yeast in 1/4 cup of the water. Combine flour, salt, add yeast mixture, rest of water and olive oil. Mix and knead 15 minutes; dough should be soft and silky.
Put in bowl, let rise 30 to 45 minutes. Punch down. Put in center of well-oiled baking sheet. Let rest. Spread out in pan. Cover and let rise 10 minutes. Using fingers, make dimples in dough. Brush surface with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes.