- Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, is a member of the hibiscus family, and, as such, has astonishingly beautiful blossoms.
- For some people, "okra gumbo" is redundant; gumbo is based on a Bantu name for the vegetable, okra comes from an Igbo word for it. Notwithstanding, gumbo the dish can be made without okra the pod, thickened just with roux/filé powder (dried, powdered sassafras).
- The phrase, "My god, it's full of stars!" doesn't actually appear in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but does appear in the Arthur C. Clarke book. Interestingly, both book and movie were conceived in parallel to each other, as collaborations between Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick.
- Okra will grow in Massachusetts.
Four Interesting Facts:
Living in the Northeast for basically my whole life, I can't really claim any Southern authenticity in my cooking. The closest I come is a relationship I had in college with someone whose mother was New Orleans born and bred. For better or worse, the most consistently functional part of the whole deal was the way we cooked together; we worked at the same restaurant and lived in the same co-op, centered around the kitchen, and often cooked together in our off time as well. I can't really credit his mother's legacy here, as much as I'd like to. Except maybe in the roux.
Broadly speaking, a roux is a combination of roughly equal parts flour and fat cooked together as a thickener for sauces, stews, gravies etc. The classical French roux utilizes butter, while a Cajun roux, like that used here, uses neutral-flavored oil. The fat and flour are cooked together until they reach a desired level of browning. The darker a roux is cooked, the more it gains depth in flavor, but this also lessens its thickening power.
Ultimately, I couldn't help being a godforsaken Northerner and throwing a whole bunch of swiss chard in the pot. Also, I used some leftover rotisserie chicken instead of some kind of fresh chicken. In the end, though, it turned out pretty tasty.
- 1 med.-large onion, medium dice
- 1 green bell pepper, medium dice
- 2-3 carrots, smaller dice
- fresh hot pepper (I used 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced)
- 3 Tblsp. veg. oil
- 3 Tblsp. AP flour (for gluten-free, sub 1½ Tblsp each of cornstarch & rice flour)
- 2 spicy sausages (~3 oz. each), precooked ←spicy, smoked andouille sausage is traditional here, but substitute at your discretion
- ½ lb. raw shrimp, deveined
- 1½-2 c. chicken, raw and cut into chunks, or cooked and pulled (I used leftover rotisserie chicken)
- 3 Tblsp. Magical Spice Blend, which gets back to its roots as a Cajun spice blend
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 10-15 okra pods, sliced into ¼" rounds
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 3-4 c. chicken stock (Ok, so I didn't actually measure this, and I used my own super-concentrated stock mixed with an indeterminate amount of water)
- 6-7 stems swiss chard, cut into thick ribbons (optional, for silly Northerners like us)
- 4½ c. cooked white rice (1½ c. dry)
- Vinegar-based LA hot sauce, such as Crystal or Tabasco
Okra Gumbo, redundant or noDairy-free, gluten-free modification included
The (modified) trinity:
Once the roux has reached a warm chestnut brown, about 10-15 minutes, add the prepped carrot, onion and peppers. Add Magical Spice Blend and a teaspoon of salt. Slice the sausages into rounds and prep chicken. After the veggies have started to soften, add sausage and, if using raw chicken, chicken (cooked chicken should go in at the end). Once meat has started to brown, add chicken stock. Slice okra and add (see, it's full of stars!). Gumbo should start to thicken almost immediately. Turn heat down to medium. Stir in chard, garlic, shrimp and cooked chicken, if using. Cover for 3-5 min. or until shrimp are cooked through. Adjust salt/spicy and serve over rice with hot sauce.