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Updated Southern Cooking:
John’s One Pot Big Easy Gumbo

John Tullock

Gumbo is the most famous southern stew, and can be found far north of New Orleans. The name comes from “quingombo,” an African word for okra, which is often used to thicken the stew. This recipe uses okra as well as a traditional roux, cooked to a chocolate brown color, for thickening. Be careful when making roux, as it can burn your skin severely.

This gumbo recipe features the best seasonal vegetables and herbs of high summer. All of the other ingredients can be found in any supermarket. The variations are endless. Substitute chicken stock for the fish stock, use cooked, chopped chicken instead of the shrimp, and you have a different dish. Seafood and chicken can be used in any combination, as long as you maintain the total amount of about 1 cup of chopped meat. Fresh shellfish can be added, in the shells, at the end of cooking, allowing them to poach in the gumbo just until they open. Discard any unopened ones.

Peel and devein 1/2 pound of Gulf shrimp, about one cup. Refrigerate, covered.

In a deep, heavy soup pot or casserole, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until hot and add 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour, stirring with a long-handled spoon or whisk. Stir constantly until the roux becomes the color of milk chocolate. Add 1/4 cup each finely chopped onions, celery and green bell peppers, stirring constantly, and saute them in the roux for 2 - 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic, 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (recipe below), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup peeled, seeded and diced tomato, and freshly ground black pepper. Continue to stir about 1 minute.

Add 3 cups fish stock, 3 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce, 2 -3 dashes hot sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves. Bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook 8-10 minutes, partially covered.

Stir in 2 ounces kielbasa or andouille sausage, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces and 3/4 cup sliced raw okra. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add the shrimp, and a tablespoon each of fresh basil and fresh oregano, chopped finely. Taste carefully and add salt if needed. Reduce the heat. Allow the shrimp to poach in the gumbo until they are pink, about 10 minutes. Do not boil the shrimp in the gumbo, or they will toughen.

Gumbo is traditionally served over rice, topped with chopped scallions or parsley or both, and sometimes garnished with half a hard boiled egg. It is also great with cornbread. A bottle of hot sauce on the table is essential for some afficionados.

While gumbo makes an excellent starter, it can also be a meal in itself if accompanied by a simple salad.

John’s Secret Creole Seasoning Mix

Combine in a jar:

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Thoroughly mix the ingredients and store tightly covered at room temperature.

John Tullock is an expert gardener and self-taught cook who likes to develop new recipes using his own fresh produce and the best from the local market. His interest in plants and horticulture begin in childhood, and he holds a masters degree in biology from The University of Tennessee. He also co-owns "Native Sons Nursery," a retail business that specializes in rare ornamental and gourmet vegetable plants.

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