Gumbo is an amazing thickened soup that has layers upon layers of flavor. Unfortunately, it also takes a long time (for me) to make, starting with homemade stock and stewing for hours as ingredients are prepared and added. For those times when I do not have the patience to prepare a true gumbo, I do this faster variant that lacks the complexity, but captures the bare essence of gumbo. Let's call it okra stew (to avoid confusion with gumbo). I tend to make this in fairly large quantities when I know that I'll be too busy to cook for the next several nights.
There's a variety of ingredients that can be used in this okra stew. The only essential one is probably okra (I use two pounds of the cut frozen variety in this recipe). In this example, I'll be preparing a chicken okra stew, but feel free to experiment with seafood (like oysters and crab or shrimp) or a vegetarian (stir-fried eggplant is fun to try) version. Start by preparing two pounds of chicken breast (about one whole breast) into rough 1/2 in. cubes. Also rough cut two green bell peppers and three ribs of celery, and finely chop one bunch of scallions (about 3/4 cup). Not show here, I also cut two medium onions into 1 in. pieces. (My eyes were watering, so I plastic wrapped the bowl and set it aside - forgetting to photograph it.)
Next, cut one pound smoked sausage such as andouille or kielbasa into bite size pieces. Make sure you use Cajun andouille, not French (which is made of tripe and usually is not smoked and is not spicy). Apply 1 Tbs. oil to a pan and heat. Over gentle heat, brown the sausage. The sausage should have enough oil so the pan doesn't dry up while cooking. (If not, add a little more oil.) [IMG]
Once the sausages are done browning, remove to a bowl and saute the onions (in batches if necessary) in the sausage grease. If there's not enough fat left in the pan, add some more oil as needed. Once the onions have become lightly browned (about 5-6 minutes), remove from the pan. Generously salt and pepper the chicken breast pieces and saute in the same pan at medium heat. When the outside of the chicken pieces have changed color, you can remove the pan from the heat.
Hopefully, the broth is boiling at this point. (If not, use this opportunity to saute the okra until golden. Saute the celery as well if the broth isn't boiling yet.) Pour the chopped okra into the broth along with the sauteed onions, bell peppers, and celery. When the mixture begins to boil again, add the chicken and bring the heat down to maintain a simmer. Stirring occasionally, simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. (The sausage can be added at this point if you don't like salty sausage. The flavor will infuse into the soup. Adding the sausage later will maintain more of the flavor concentrated in the sausage and less spread out in the soup.) [IMG]
After the soup has thickened (it should form strings when poured slowly from a ladle) and the chicken cooked, add the finely chopped scallions with the sausage. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for five additional minutes. [IMG]
The final okra stew is served great over rice, but (if seasoned with a light hand) is also an excellent soup for cold winter days. Adding hot sauce or ground chile to the broth is a great way to spice up this dish. [IMG]
This sounds wonderful--cozy and nourishing. I have to try it, but first I will run it through a recipe analyzer...obsessed as I am these days with calories, carbs, and the like. Which led me to the thought....are your recipes by any chance in a format easy to analyze? Or do you have access to something that could tell us stats? I don't want to create extra work for you, but it does seem sort of...engineer-y.
Actually, I will probably substitute those great chicken sausages that I get at Costco and engineer out some of the fat when I make it.
I'm a reader from Louisiana, and I'll let you in on a secret we use often -- instant roux. Adding some of this to your okra stew would indeed make a fast gumbo. Here's a link to an article that explains how to use instant roux: http://www.cookinglouisiana.com/Cooking/powdered-roux.htm Many Cajun grandmothers have switched over to instant roux because it is easier and quicker.
Roux is very easy to make in the microwave - it makes no sense to ommit it or to use some store bought processed stuff.
Take the normal porportions you would use of butter and flour, Mix well in a large pyrex messuring cup and microwave in 30 second bursts until you get the desired color. I usually bring mine up to a brick-red to dark brown color. It takes about 4 minutes in my micro wave. I cannot tell the difference between this and something I made on the stove top.
I suppose you could make a roux in the microwave, and I guess that with practice you can learn how to do it properly. But it seems like a pretty dicey proposition to me. I mean, after all, the point of a roux for gumbo is the flavor as much as the thickening power. Maybe it's just me, but "brick red" doesn't cut it for flavor; more like mahogany. And it seems to me you wouldn't have enough control over the process in a microwave to prevent scorching and burning when you get to that point.
Maybe I'm just too skeptical, but microwaved roux? No thank you.
On topic: I like the recipe, despite my loathing of okra. And I'm glad I found this site.
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1636 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 5:59 pm Post subject:
re: roux flavor or thickener?
In traditional gumbo, the roux is used more for flavor than for thickening power. The darker the roux (the longer you cook it), the more flavor it has, but by the time it's a deep mohagony, it doesn't have much in the way of thickening power. That role is given to the okra or the file powder.
Another reference for Gumbo is a book called, "The Little Book of Gumbo". I picked up a copy while on my Honeymoon a few years ago. Its where I found the idea for Microwave Roux. There is also an interesting idea for toasting the flour in the oven. Then it is stored in the fridge (up to 2 months if I remember correctly). When the time comes for roux, you just melt some butter and add the toasted flour. The book contains a lot of history and lore and a nice variety of recipes - both quick and traditional. For more tradition, of course, nothing beats Chez P.
By the way, the microwave roux has the same depth and nutty flavor as anything I've made in the more traditional ways. Control is no problem: simply adjust the power level once you begin to reach the desired color.