New Orleans Recipes for Mardi Gras
Classic New Orleans Gumbo
With or without okra, gumbo is a New Orleans icon.
Gumbo is one of the crowning glories of New Orleans cuisine. This flavorful stew is named for the West African word for okra, "gombo." It can feature any number of main ingredients, most commonly, shrimp, crab, chicken, duck, and sausage. A well-made gumbo offers a savory combination of tastes and textures that is unlike any other dish. Our recipe, a chicken-and-sausage version, came from the late Southern Living Food and Travel Editor Dana Adkins Campbell.
All gumbos start with a roux, but after the initial browning of fat and flour, other decisions are left to the cook's discretion and what ingredients are on hand. Most gumbos are seasoned with garlic and what Louisianans call the "holy trinity"--bell pepper, onion, and celery. Some cooks add in okra, but an equal number don't. Other possible ingredients include tomatoes, bay leaves, and filé powder (crushed sassafras leaves).
There are a few things to consider before you make gumbo. It will take a lot of time, some of it spent stirring the roux, but most of the time is basically hands free. You'll just need to stir the pot occasionally to prevent sticking.
Not a fan of okra? Then don't include it. But you'll likely want to provide an alternate thickener, such as filé powder, or to cook the stew uncovered to reduce the liquid. White rice is the most traditional accompaniment, but for a truly authentic Cajun touch, serve potato salad on the side.