A friend recently bought me a bag of fresh okra. That sounds like an odd gift — but she knows me and is aware that I am always on the hunt for unique ingredients and innovative ways to use them.
The gift coincided with a damp, cold spell, so gumbo suggested itself. There are many different types of gumbo, but the main fault line is divided into Creole and Cajun. Creole gumbo contains tomatoes, dark roux, okra and shellfish, while Cajun gumbo eschews tomatoes, and usually contains chicken. Both generally integrate ham and sausage.
Granted, many of these ingredients would not be found in a kosher kitchen, but using some of the techniques and elements of a traditional gumbo adapted to kashrut produced a delicious meal.
The recipe is not difficult, but it does involve several steps and is a bit labor-intensive. The upside is that it makes quite a lot and freezes well, so this will feed a large crowd, or provide many future meals to a smaller group.
We served this with a simple salad and a loaf of crusty semolina bread.
Makes about 1 gallon
Chicken and broth:
3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts/thighs)
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 onion, quartered
1 stalk celery, cut into large chunks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup vegetable oil or margarine
½ cup flour
1½ pounds okra, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1½ pounds andouille turkey sausage (or other spicy, smoked sausage) sliced into ¼-inch discs
Chicken from stock pot, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 quarts chicken broth
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon (or more) Tabasco sauce
Salt/pepper/cayenne pepper to taste
To serve: cooked white rice and chopped scallions to garnish
In a large stockpot, place the chicken and broth ingredients, and cover them with water. The recipe calls for 3 quarts of stock, but if there is extra freeze it and use it in soup — spare chicken stock never goes to waste!
Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 40 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and, when they’re cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones; set the meat aside, and return the skin and bones to the stock. Continue simmering to enhance the flavor of the broth.
While the stock simmers, make the roux. In a large pot or Dutch oven, place the oil and flour. Mix with a whisk or wooden spoon, and heat it over medium. Continue stirring until the roux turns a golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma. This forms the basis of the gumbo, so don’t rush this part! It takes about 15 minutes.
When the roux is done, add the vegetables and seasonings. Stir to coat, and sauté until the veggies are soft. The okra may get stringy during the sauté process; continue cooking until it is no longer stringy. Add the sausage and chicken; stir to coat. Strain 3 quarts of chicken stock, and add it to the pot. Add the tomatoes and stir.
Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add the finishing seasonings, taste and serve.
For each serving, ladle the gumbo into a bowl, top it with a scoop of cooked white rice (about a half-cup per bowl) and garnish with chopped scallions, including both the white and green parts.
Keri White is a Philadelphia-based freelance food writer.