Okra Gumbo

Today is Mardi Gras and there really is no better way to celebrate than with food. Without a trip to the grocery store I was able to pull together a Creole-Southern classic: Okra Gumbo.

Juicy chunks of browned sausage, bright green okra, red tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, shrimp and rice. A one pot meal that’s simple and layered with flavor. I didn’t have fresh shrimp on hand, so I added a handful of dried shrimp which I keep in my pantry to give my gumbo a bit of an umami edge. By all means, be traditional and use fresh shrimp if you have them, better yet if you have the time use the heads and shells to prepare a stock to season the gumbo.

This may not be exactly how it’s done in the South, as I’m sure many families and regions have their own special recipe, but this rendition is simple, quick and tastes great.

okra-gumboOkra Gumbo

Serves 6-8

1 Tbsp lard or olive oil
2 Sausages (really good ones, from your butcher)
1 stalk celery, chipped
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups okra, sliced 1 inch pieces (For the best texture, you’ve got to sear the okra first)
Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown a little
3 Tbsp Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp Butter
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup raw white rice
1/4 cup dried shrimp
1 can pomodorini or crushed tomatoes
2 scallions, chopped
To taste: Parsley, chopped

In a dutch oven heat lard or olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sausage and saute 3-5 minutes or until browned.

Meanwhile, in a separate skillet heat 1 tsp lard or olive oil, add the okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown a little, turn off the heat and set aside.

To the dutch oven with the sausage add the onion and bell pepper, saute for 1 minute. Next, add the celery, garlic and okra, saute for 4 minutes or until soft. Add the oregano, thyme, bay leaves, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper. Make a well in the center of the dutch oven by pushing the sausage and vegetables to the sides. In the center of the well, add the butter and flour, stir constantly until the flour has turned a sandy brown. Stir in the stock, pomodorini (tomatoes) and raw rice and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the rice is nearly tender. Add the dried shrimp and cook until tender (2-3 minutes) Discard the bay leaves. Serve in bowls topped with chopped scallions and parsley along with a thick slice of toasted French bread.

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