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National Gumbo Day: Cajun or Creole?

National Gumbo Day

Quote for Today:  Best Gumbo in the World, I “Gar-on-tee.” (Catchphrase, Chef Justin Wilson)

Today October 12th is National Gumbo Day. Being a wannabe Cajun; I believe my recipe for this delicious dish is top-notch. The only problem is that when you serve two hundred bowls of gumbo every day, the one hundred and ninety-five that sings your praises goes over your head and the five that say “it’s not authentic, Creole, Cajun or any other adjective” tends to frustrate you.

Louisiana Bayou

Louisiana Bayou

My first experience mass producing gumbo was my boss who told me that was they made it in “Lafayette” the epicenter of Acadian in Southern Louisiana. The tough part is that if you travel ten miles in any direction from Lafayette the opinion of what gumbo should be will change faster than the weather.

Over the years, I have come up with my own opinion on how to make gumbo and here are my thoughts. First off the most frequent criticism is that it’s not Cajun or Creole. In a nutshell, Cajun Cuisine is derived from French descendants moving south from Nova Scotia and Canada to Southern Louisiana. Creole Cuisine comes from the French aristocracy that settled in New Orleans and was highly influenced by the Spanish, Native American Indians, and slaves brought in from West India, Africa, and the Caribbean.

National Gumbo Day, Shrimp, Sausage, & Chicken Gumbo

Louisiana Gumbo

Gumbo is actually the name of the popular vegetable “okra” brought to the U.S. by African slaves. Here lies the common distinction between Cajun and Creole Gumbo. The Creoles add okra and tomatoes to their stew which added thickening and acidity while the Cajun’s add ground sassafras leaves to thicken their creations. Who came up with the sassafras leaves is another debate. The one common denominator is the rice mounted in the center of the stew to make this dish a complete meal.

Another question for debate is the use of a roux to make a base for your stew and what color it should be. The Cajun version I was initially taught used an extremely dark nutty roux that looked like dark chocolate and was purchased from Poche’s, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. When this product was unavailable, I had to learn to make it on my own. The traditional way of stirring equal amounts of fat and flour over a low flame until it reaches a chocolate and nutty consistency is not feasible in a busy restaurant. Through trial and error, I found the easiest way to achieve this was by placing equal amounts of fat and flour in a heavy baking dish, combining well and stirring often will achieve the same result without the constant babysitting. With these few things in mind, this is how to make a gumbo.

Louisiana Gumbo
A Tasty Louisiana Bayou Gumbo
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  1. 1 lb 31-35 Count Shrimp, peeled with shells reserved
  2. 1 lb Andouille Sausage, casing removed, cut on bias
  3. 1 Whole Chicken, cut into eight pieces
  4. 1 Green Bell Pepper, small, diced
  5. 1 Yellow Onion, diced
  6. 6 oz Celery, diced
  7. 2 Jalapenos, diced
  8. 3 Roma Tomatoes, diced
  9. 5 oz All Purpose Flour
  10. 5 oz Vegetable Oil
  11. 2 Bay leaves
  12. 4 oz Scallions, diced thin
  13. 1 tsp Oregano, dried
  14. 1 tsp Thyme, dried
  15. 1 tsp Basil, dried
  16. 20 oz Long Grain Rice Cooked
  17. 1 tbsp Sassafras powder (Fille)
  18. 3 qts Chicken Stock
  19. 1 cup White Wine
  20. 4 ½ cups Water
  21. 5 oz Mustard (Hot Dog)
  22. 2 tbsp Cajun Seasoning (Tony Chachere’s)
  23. Vegetable Oil as needed
  24. 1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss chicken pieces in hot dog mustard mixed with Cajun Seasoning until coated. Place on roasting rack in oven for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Combine flour and oil in a heavy baking dish and add to the oven where chicken is cooking. Every 15 minutes or so, stir flour mixture well until it reaches a chocolate color and has a nutty aroma.
  2. In a large saucepan, add oil as needed and Andouille sausage, to render the fat out of sausage. Add celery, jalapenos, green peppers and tomatoes; cook roughly 5 minutes or until tender. Drain off fat, reserve vegetables, and add fat back to pan. Add in raw shrimp shells and sauté until they turn bright red. Add wine and water, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, salt, and pepper. Strain well, add chicken stock and bring to a low simmer. Add cooked chicken meat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add roux and mix well. Add shrimp and cook until just tender. Add fille and whisk well, adjust seasoning if needed. Transfer to serving bowls, top with rice and garnish with parsley and scallions. Chef TJ
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