Monday, February 25, 2013

I've been quiet, haven't I?

I've been insanely busy with work and college... but I will be posting soon, and something really awesome!  Homemade gumbo from scratch!  Now, I can tell you that there are a lot of gumbo recipes out there, and if you don't live in southern Louisiana, chances are the only way you're going to find decent gumbo is to make it yourself.  (Even when I've gone to Shreveport, LA, I have yet to eat a decent bowl of restaurant gumbo)  If you’ve never been to NOLA (New Orleans, LA), and you don’t know someone from there, chances are that you’ve never actually had a good bowl of gumbo.

My gumbo has developed over years and years of making it, originally from Chef Paul Prudhomme's recipe. However, I finally visited New Orleans a couple of years ago. Eating the 'real deal' at Mulatte's completely changed the way I think about gumbo. Now, the awesome thing about gumbo is, you make it your own.... as long as it's fantastic, it's all good.  There’s plenty of argument about whether gumbo has okra or tomatoes, and when to add the filé.  There are as many varieties of gumbo that you can imagine - I've even had gumbo with beans in it. Seriously!

I’m getting ahead of myself though.  What exactly is gumbo?  I can tell you that it’s not the canned stuff you find at the grocery store.  Gumbo originated in Southern Louisiana during the 18th century, and like the people of the region, gumbo is literally a melting pot meal from a wide variety of cultures, such as French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw.  The name “gumbo” probably comes from the Bantu word for okra “ki gnombo” or else the Choktaw word for file (ground sassafras powder) “kombo”.  There are some that prefer their gumbo without okra, but I feel that real gumbo requires it – it’s where the name probably originated from after all!  Gumbo will always contain the “holy trinity” which is onions, bell peppers and celery, and starts with a base or roux.  Traditionally, the color of the roux will depend on the type of gumbo you’re making.  Gumbo containing seafood and lighter meats such as chicken will have a dark roux.  Gumbo made with game meats, or darker colored meats will have a lighter colored roux.  New Orleans gumbo will usually be a mixture of seafood (shrimp, crawfish, oysters, crab) or poultry (usually chicken, but sometimes duck) and sausage (andouille sausage).  I generally combine all three, using what I have one hand.

So, I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for gumbo! I’ve recently returned from Shreveport, LA with some amazing andouille from Bergeron’s and I’m looking forward to making a huge pot of gumbo.  For more information, I *highly* recommend The Prudhomme Family Cookbook or Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen .  Chef Paul’s books are amazing because he provides not only the recipes, but also what he knows about the history of that dish. In the case of the family cookbook, you also get the bonus of his family history of that dish.  These two books are treasures, and I own both of them.


Sissi said...

It's so nice to see you back! New Orleans is one of the places I would love to visit in the US. I have heard so much about its cuisine too, for example gumbo, but I have never tasted or cooked it alas.
Now that I think I have at least one book by this author! I sometimes buy second hand cookery books and forget about them... I must check! Thank you for the inspiration.

muskratbyte said...

Hi Sissi! Thank you! I've been really busy with school lately.

I actually thought I knew how to make a good gumbo, until visiting New Orleans. It takes forever to make a good roux, but it's literally the backbone of gumbo.

If you ever visit the US, let me know, I'd love to meet you!