Friday, February 11, 2011

A Cold Winter's Night

Bitterly cold days in winter are to be expected and embraced. The temperature outside is 1.9° F despite the beautiful sun shine we are having. The sun beams are falling on the floor making the whole house so cheerful. but never the less, I will be very happy when everyone gets home for the evening. Cold temps are not to be taken too lightly.

So in honor of our super cold day I am making thick and spicy gumbo. Have you ever made gumbo from scratch? I did. Once. It was okay, but not worth an entire afternoons worth of work. Then I tried a dried soup mix. Once. I am not a huge fan of processed foods, so when we do indulge in something processed, it better be good. This was not.

There had to be a happy medium. My boys ( big and medium sized ones ) love gumbo. So I thought it all over and decided that I needed the speed and convenience of the dry mix as well as the yummy goodness of the homemade gumbo. So I finally combined homemade gumbo with a soup mix. Bingo, the boys loved it and I'm going to show you how to do it too. Today, we are making the most un-traditional gumbo in the world.

I am using a dry gumbo mix. I don't think the brand of the mix matters as much as what you do to the mix that makes the big difference. I am adding sausage, chicken, shrimp and a lots of veggies like okra, bell peppers, onion, carrot and celery to the mix to take an ordinary mix over the top. Rice mixed with a little powdered file is an extra special touch if you want to get super authentic. I found everything I needed at my local grocery store, except for the file powder. I am using Zatarain's which can be found here if you cannot find something like it locally. Also, I forgot to put the okra on the cutting board for the photo. I just buy chopped okra in the frozen vegetable section of my grocery store.

Start by adding a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of a large stock pot.

Add the carrot, pepper, celery, onion, salt and pepper to the pot. It would be most traditional to use green pepper (but not all of us like the green bell peppers so we use the colors instead), celery and onion. You can use whatever combination of veggies that you would like. It'll be okay.

Stir everything in the pot a few times.

Cover the pot with a lid to cook the veggies.

Cook until the veggies are soft. Aren't they pretty?

Add the water suggested on the package directions and cook according to package directions. My package says to bring the water to a boil.

Whisk in the soup mix, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. This is the part where I am going to be a good girl and do exactly what they say.

After 20 minutes, you get a thickened soup that looks good, but we are not done yet. Add the the chicken and sausage. Cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes uncovered.

The soup will reduce ever so slightly while the meat is cooking. If you were making this ahead of time you would stop now. But if you are going to serve it right away go on to the next step.

Let's talk about the okra and shrimp now.

Okra is a very southern vegetable that adds an authentic feel to gumbo. If you add it to the soup to soon, then it will over cook and turn grey. You don't want that. You want cooked okra that is tender and green. Adding it to the soup at the last minute keeps it green and beautiful.

Shrimp is just a fun addition when you already have the sausage and chicken. Shrimp would usually be added to a seafood gumbo, but i think it works really well in this recipe. Shrimp can easily over cook. I add the shrimp to the soup very carefully so a few pieces float on top as shown below. As soon as the shrimp turns pink, you are ready to serve. By the time you dish up the soup and sit down to eat, your shrimp should be perfect. If you over cook the shrimp it will become tough so wait to add the shrimp until the last minute.

To serve, put a half cup of rice in the bottom of your bowl. I used an ice cream scoop to give it that nice rounded look. You don't have to do that though.

Then add a few ladles of gumbo. Sprinkle it with the fillet powder if you are using it.

The gumbo is thick, full of chunky goodies, and mouth watering good. I did not grow up in the south, but this proves that you don't have to be a southerner to love gumbo. You can serve it with hot sauce and some extra file powder on the side. All that is left to do is enjoy.



1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced bell peppers
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
salt and pepper
Package dry Gumbo Soup Mix
1 bag frozen okra
1 pound peeled & deveined raw shrimp
1 pound chicken thighs, fat removed and cut into bite size chunks
1 pound sliced sausage of your choice
3 cups cooked brown rice
Water for soup mix and to make rice
File powder (optional)
Hot sauce of your choice (optional)


1. In a stock pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil, 4 cups of vegetables, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Stir the vegetables together. Cover and cook vegetables 5 to 7 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir occasionally.
2. Add water to stock pot according to directions of soup mix. Follow the directions of our soup mix and make the gumbo.
3. When the package of soup is made, add chicken and sausage to the pot and cook over a low simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add the okra and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add the shrimp and cook for another two minutes or just until shrimp becomes pink.
6. Serve over brown rice with file powder or hot sauce on the side.
Enjoy. Serves 6 generous portions.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe click here.

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