My Mom’s (amazing) Gumbo: A Recipe

It’s hard to really overstate how great this gumbo is.  Perhaps an example of my devotion to it will be most convincing.

Most people close to me know that I tend to eat very small portions.  It’s my version of a “diet.”  I eat whatever I want, when I want, but I just don’t eat much of it.  Generally the only things I eat in massive quantities are cranberries but I don’t really count that as pigging out.

When it comes to my mom’s gumbo though, I know no moderation.  I will eat big, huge bowls of it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days on end.

It’s a good thing that, until recently, I didn’t have the recipe for this delicious stuff.  Except that now I do and its actually pretty easy once you get through the chopping and sautéing and roux-making phase.

A few notes before I give you the recipe that will change your winter weekends forever:

1. This is a lot of ingredients.  It’s worth it to use as many as you can.  Don’t discount the importance of the okra, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, sugar, lemon, or cayenne or the herbs.  Things like vegetable oil and shortening can be substituted in a pinch, the crab meat is probably not entirely necessary and its expensive.  I’m not even that attached to the chicken.  Shrimp and sausage are enough in my book.

2. To keep your shrimp nice and tender in your leftovers, its worth it to fish them out of the soup and store them separately.  Then, when you are reheating the gumbo (because this is a recipe you make with next week’s lunch in mind) heat up the soup and just add the shrimp right before you serve it again.  The residual heat is more than enough to heat the shrimp through but not so much that the shrimp get overcooked.

3. There’s a whole 1/2 cup of brown sugar in this recipe.  For most people, that’s a lot.  To dial up the spice and down the sweetness, simply cut the sugar to 1/4cup or less and up the cayenne.  We didn’t use pickapeppa sauce because we didn’t have any but the added cayenne was more than enough to give a nice spicy bite on the back end of each spoonful.  That’s what I like about this recipe, its a touch sweet on the front, spicy on the back.  Yum!

4.  This recipe also calls for cooking the gumbo for a full 3 hours before serving.  I think the gumbo is  better after 3 hours of cooking, but its still most-assuredly super tasty after just 1 hour of simmering-especially if you dial back on the chicken stock to about 2/3 of what the recipe calls for.

5. Use good sausage.  The woman at the shrimp counter recommended a Portuguese sausage that started with an L (helpful, I know!) instead of regular andouille.  It was a delicious suggestion but no matter what you use, make sure it is good and that you saute it well to get the nice crunchy crust on it before it goes into the gumbo.

6. No-Knead bread goes very well with gumbo, and other things.

Ok, now the recipe for the best gumbo EVER:


1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup flour

1 large onion, chopped

8 stalks celery, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

½ cup minced fresh parsley

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, butter flavor

1 pound okra, cut crosswise into ½ inch dice, may use frozen

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

4 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, reserving shells

4 quarts chicken stock

1 pound spicy smoked sausage, cut into ½ inch rounds, and

sauteed quickly on both sides

½ cup Worcestershire sauce

½ cup catsup

1 large tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons Pickapeppa Sauce

1 tablespoon salt

pinch cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over

2 cups cooked chopped chicken

½ cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon gumbo File powder

Freshly cooked rice

Heat vegetable oil in large heavy pot over very low heat.  Gradually add flour and stir with wooden spoon until roux is nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, add onions, celery, bell pepper, parsley and garlic and cook until vegetables are soft, about 30-45 minutes.  Melt shortening in heavy large skillet over medium low heat.  Add okra andvinegar and cook until okra is no longer stringy, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes.

Add okra to onion mixture.  Add chicken stock, sausage, Worcestershire sauce, catsup, tomato, Pickapeppa Sauce, salt, cayenne, thyme, rosemary,and bay leaves to okra mixture and simmer until very thick, stirring occasionally, about 3 hours (may be done 2 days ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated, bringing to simmer before continuing with recipe).

Add shrimp, crabmeat, chicken, brown sugar and lemon juice to gumbo. Heat to simmer adjusting seasonings. Remove from heat, add file powder, and serve over rice.


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