Wikipedia defines "Gumbo" as "a stew popular in the U.S. state of Louisiana, and is the official state cuisine. Gumbo consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and what Louisianians call the "Holy Trinity" of vegetables, namely celery, bell peppers, and onions."
First off...I would not have used the term stew and gumbo in the same sentence unless I was asking you if you preferred chicken stew or chicken gumbo! There are many variations of gumbo that differ from ways to prepare the roux (pronounced rue) to what ingredients are used. I would think gumbo closer to soup than a stew....but, what do I know? I love to make all types of gumbo...chicken and sausage gumbo, poule d'eau and gizzard gumbo, squirrel gumbo, okra and egg gumbo and a myriad of seafood combinations...all different type of gumbos that can be prepared in a number of ways! I would consider my seafood gumbo prep more "traditional." However, some may see mine as different from their "traditional."
My first order of business is always to cut up the "trinity." The word trinity is typically associated with Christianity representing one God within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From a gumbo aspect, the "tri" in trinity represents three items within one mixture - onions, celery and bell pepper. But, I was never good at math and Latin.....my onions consist of two types of onions - yellow and green. So, that would technically be four items! I prefer relatively equal quantities in the mixture to include one large yellow onion, one large bell pepper, one bunch of green onions and several stalks of celery...all chopped to a fine to medium coarseness. I always leave a small section of green onion tops to chop and add later for more color. My grandmother would use two part yellow onions to one part bell peppers....just for additional variation in this recipe.
|The Cajun Math version of a Trinity. From Top Left, Bell Peppers, celery, yellow onion and green onion with green onion tops in the middle.|
|Fresh, South Louisiana Shrimp; Peeled and de-veined.|
|The first stages of the roux as it begins to brown.|
|Further along in the roux process...notice it is beginning to darken.|
|The roux getting darker!|
|Adding the trinity to the dark, brown roux.|
|Trinity folded in and coated with the roux.|
|After sitting twenty minutes.|
Now, I will add in all of my additional seasonings. Some of my go-to's are celery salt, red/black/white black pepper, fresh parsley flakes, three or four bay leaves, a couple splashes of D.A.T. Sauce. I'm generally pretty liberal with all of this. I'll add a small palmful of filé....would that be the equivalent of about a tablespoon? Could this derivative of sassafras leaves be the "thickener" referenced in the Wikipedia definition? I'll bring all of this to a good boil, stirring frequently keeping anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Then, drop the heat to a slow boil until the celery is soft and the onions are translucent. During this time, skim off any residual oil from the top of the gumbo.
Lastly, I'll add the seasoned seafood. I'll add the shrimp and oysters first. About two minutes later, add the crab meat and crab claws. I prefer a hardy gumbo with plenty of meat in every bite. Some people prefer less meat and more liquid. If you want more liquid, add some water here to thin it down...or make it go further for more people! Chop up the remaining green onion tops you had leftover and add them into the pot for presentation. The bright red Rotel tomatoes and dark, green onion tops make for a great presentation. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for about five minutes. Taste for any remaining seasoning you want to add...salt, hot sauce, your favorite Cajun seasoning, etc. If needed, simply add and you are ready to warm your soul!
Traditionally....put a healthy scoop of rice in a bowl and spoon/ladle the gumbo over the rice...always having much more liquid than rice....remember, this isn't stew! You want that rice swimming in the gumbo! If you're a meat and potatoes kind of person....substitute a thick, hardy potato salad for the rice. I didn't discover this until much later in life and love gumbo over potato salad when I have the opportunity.
Maybe the next time I cook this, I'll actually take the time to try and measure out ingredients. But, again...it's gumbo. By definition....there is no "real" recipe to cooking a gumbo...just the process. Roux, trinity, seasonings, meats and stock....all to the point that is pleasing to the eyes and pallet! Happy Eating!
And since this is a link party, please head over to Michael Ann's blog, OutandBack to see what tasty soup recipe she has in store!