I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Down in New Orleans, we rarely use recipes. It’s a pinch of this, a little of that, a spoon of this, and some of that…. Ewee, that’s good! In honor of Evangeline and Gabriel’s first date, I decided to cook gumbo.
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A heaping amount of music (yes, you read that right. Music, like cooking, in New Orleans is just another one of the things we are known for. The food responds to the music. I recommended pairing gumbo with Dr. John, Fats Domino, or even Tab Benoit. He has an excellent version of “We Make a Good Gumbo” that the gumbo especially seems to enjoy. Plus it’s always fun to dance while you chop, fry, and whisk your roux!)
2 pounds smoked sausage (you can substitute this with Andouille sausage or even hot sausage, depending on your preference), sliced into rounds
2 pounds smoked ham, cubed
1 ½ pounds smoked turkey (or you could also use chicken… this is a gumbo, a melting pot of so many delicious foods, you really can’t go wrong.)
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 large onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers (about 4 cups), chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cans (14.5-ounces) diced tomatoes (or 4 ½ fresh tomatoes, cubed. Keep all of the juices. I prefer to use fresh. Simply because fresh gives the gumbo a really, really stellar taste.)
2 bags frozen okra (20 ounces), defrosted
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (I love Tony Chachere’s)
1 teaspoon thyme
2-3 bay leaves
1/3 cup flower
2 ½ boxes of chicken broth (48 ounce boxes.)
How to make a good gumbo:
Brown sausage, smoked ham, and if you are using chicken, in a stock pot (or if you’re like me, a Magnalite pot) over medium heat until browned. You want to make sure you cook the sausage until it gets a nice brown coating, because this is what’s called “gratin”. It is going to give your gumbo such a delicious flavor you’ll lick your lips! C'est bon!
(If your meats are sticking, add 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil. It shouldn’t, though. The fat from the sausage should coat the pan just fine.)
Remove your meats, set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon oil, onions, bell peppers, celery, and all of your seasonings to the pot (except for the bay leaves), and sauté until tender. Once tender, remove from pot and mix with meats. Set aside.
Now it’s time to make the roux! This, along with your gratin, is going to give your gumbo that beautiful brown color. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and flour to your pot, stirring with a whisk. Stir until the flour has absorbed the oil and it becomes nice and brown.
Add broth. Make sure you stir well, incorporating all those flavors—the roux will not only color your gumbo beautifully, but also thicken it. No soupy gumbo!
Stir in your meat (if you are using smoked turkey, add it now)/vegetable mixture, tomatoes with juice, and bay leaves. I like to start by cooking my gumbo on high, until it starts rolling, and then gradually turn the level of heat down. Simmer on low- medium for about 90 minutes, occasionally stirring.
At the ninety-minute mark, add your okra. 15 minutes later add you shrimp. Cook just until your shrimp turn pink, about 10 minutes. If you overcook shrimp, they become little rubbery monsters. Keep a close eye on them.
Serve over rice. Garnish with parsley and Gumbo Filé if it makes you smile.
And there you have it, Creole’s Gumbo. I hope ya’ll enjoy.
P.S. Gumbo freezes beautifully, and it’s always better the next day!
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Do you believe in the power of dreams?
Way down south on Marigny Street in the heart of New Orleans, the land of Catholic intercessions, purgatory, and supernatural superstitions, young Evangeline Chenier dreams of a radiant boy who saves her from a storm. She takes the dream seriously – in her family, dreams are sometimes more than dreams. Sometimes they foretell the future. Sometimes they create it.
Years later, Eva is no longer the same wistful girl but a hardened woman who no longer believes in dreams. Losing faith in her gift, she becomes lost in a nightmare of emotion, mourning her son, separating from her husband, and stewing in a dead-end job. And then fate brings her an unlikely surprise: one of the most famous movie stars in the world, Gabriel Roberts.
Caught by something in his eyes, Eva agrees to show him the real Big Easy on his last night in New Orleans—an evening that turns into four dreamy days spent recapturing lost faith and discovering a love neither expected. Realizing Gabriel is the boy from her childhood dream, Eva must leave everything behind—her husband, her family, her history, and the beautiful city she calls home—and gamble it all for the dream that has saved her on MARIGNY STREET.
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