• 3 cups chopped vegetables (onions, green onions, celery, bell pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 10 ounces cut okra, (can be frozen)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 pound chopped tomatoes, (can be canned)
  • 5 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 pounds peeled shrimp or cubed cooked chicken or 1 pound lump crabmeat
  • file


You will need a large stock pot or dutch oven. Chop the vegetables before you start, and put them in a large bowl. Keep the okra separate. If you are using frozen okra, open the package and have it ready but not mixed in with the other vegetables.

Heat the oil on medium high for about 2 minutes in the pot. The sprinkle on the flour. Now this is going to take 12-15 minutes of constant stirring. Amuse yourself by watching the colors change and trying to identify the color by a comparison. The smell will begin to rise when the flour has changed from cream to beige. It's not burning as long as you keep stirring. (If for some reason you do stop and little black charred pieces appear, throw it out and start over.) The next color is caramel and then reddish-brown. You will know when the roux is ready by the lovely scorch smell, the n ice thin-pudding texture, and the rich mahogany brown color.

Now add the chopped vegetables all at once an continue stirring. The color of the roux will change from a red brown to a chocolate brown. The vegetables arrest the cooking and the roux won't get any darker. After stirring the vegetables for about two minutes, addd the okra. Now look what's happening! The mixture becomes stringy and thickens as the okra cooks down. You can take a little break from stirring, but for the next 15 minutes, you should stir the mixture occasionally until it looks like several melted Nestles Crunch bars.

Add tomatoes, stock, cayenne pepper, salt, thyme and bay leaves and heat to boiling. Then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour. Now the gumbo is ready for the main ingredient (the seafood or chicken). If you are going to have it vegetarian, of course you won't be adding the main ingredient. At this point, you can turn it off and let it cool and then put it in the refrigerator overnight so the flavors can marry. Then reheat when you are ready to serve and stir in the meat and some file (which is spicy and delicate and also thickens the stew). When the shrimp is pink, it is cooked. When the chicken is hot, it is ready. When the crabmeat is warmed, it is ready.

Traditionally, gumbo is served in a bowl over white rice, but you can also stir a cup or two of cooked rice into the pot if you like instead of serving the two things separately. You can garnish with chopped parsley and green onions.


Gwen McKee