We picked up our food from the CSA, then had to make a mad dash off to the car repair place (our car was in the shop…), and quickly return a rental (…for several days), so, by the time we did that, we really, really, wanted something quick and easy. Like a take-out pizza. We decided against it, since our produce was as fresh as possible, and we knew we had okra. Lots of okra.
Fortunately, making up a batch of gumbo is actually pretty fast and easy. Really! We made up a batch of gumbo, from start to finish, including making rice, in under an hour. Not bad. And after we ate it, we both agreed that it was better than a take-out pizza. Much better.
Now, this recipe is adapted from Red and Green Gumbo in Dining with the Desert Museum, put together by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, but we’ll have you know that we take great liberties when making gumbo. But, that’s the great thing about great dishes. They nicely morph and accommodate what you have in the house, rather than needing everything the recipe calls for.
Oh, and, you might notice that we don’t call this Okra Gumbo, even though it uses plenty of okra, for the simple reason that Gumbo means Okra. Okra Gumbo would be redundant.
Makes about 4 bowls
As we said, this is a flexible recipe. Don’t like mushrooms? Use diced celery, instead. Have a bunch of green peppers, use several rather than one. Like garlic, add a minced clove or two. Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Use only canned. We think you just need to stick to the basics of making a roux, adding some onions, tomatoes, and okra, and adding spices and whatever else that might be good, and go with it.
Procedure in detail:
Make a roux. This is basic to so many recipes, including gumbo; it sounds fancy and difficult, but basically you melt butter, add flour, and cook the resulting flour butter paste over low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until it’s a light brown. To keep the roux from burning, stir it frequently and scrape up any dark spots that form on the bottom of the pan.
Add onions. Once your roux is ready, add the onions, and cook those for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Make sure to stir them from time to time, too.
Add tomatoes. Pour in the can of tomatoes, along with 2 cups of water, and stir the liquid into the roux to make a thickish gravy. Now, add the green peppers and the fresh tomatoes. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Add okra and mushrooms. Now that your gumbo is boiling, add the okra, mushrooms, and spices. Stir and continue to boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer. Simmering melds the flavors together, so you want to let the gumbo simmer for at least 15 minutes for the best flavor.
Serve. Remove bay leaves, serve in bowls topped with about 1/2 cup of white rice.
To us, gumbo is a meal in a bowl. We don’t bother making sides, we don’t bother making a salad. At most, we might have a bit of bread along side, mainly to sop up that delicious broth. And, yes, when we make up a batch of gumbo, there are no leftovers. None. We eat it all and wish we had made more. Five stars.