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Okra Stew (Fast Gumbo)

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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.)

Meanwhile, pour 4 14 oz. cans of low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth into a large pot. Then add eight cups of water, cover, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

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.)

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.

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.

Okra Stew (makes about six quarts or 5.5 L)
1 lb. (450 g) smoked sausagecutsautesimmer 5 min.
2 lb. (900 g) chicken breastcubesautesimmer 30 min.
2 medium onionschopsaute
2 lb. okrachopsaute
3 celery ribschopsaute
2 medium bell pepperschop
56 oz. to 64 oz. (1.9 L) chicken brothboil
8 cups (1.9 L) water
3/4 cup (75 g) scallionsfinely chop
Copyright 2005 Michael Chu
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Written by Michael Chu
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22 comments on Okra Stew (Fast Gumbo):(Post a comment)

On August 15, 2005 at 01:54 PM, an anonymous reader said...
It's spelled 'kielbasa' not 'keilbasa'. Or 'kiełbasa' (that's 'l' with a slash) if you can use unicode or central european encoding.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:54 PM, Michael Chu said...
Whoops. Forgot to run a spell check on the article. Thanks for catching the error!

On August 15, 2005 at 01:55 PM, Karen (guest) said...
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

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.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:56 PM, crisper (guest) said...
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: Many Cajun grandmothers have switched over to instant roux because it is easier and quicker.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:56 PM, Carolyn (guest) said...
Adding a few drops of Trapper's MexiPep hot sauce will add that indifinable extra something to your gumbo. Great job, looks just like my gumbo, sans roux.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:57 PM, Carolyn (guest) said...
That's Trappey's. Also using canned okra will add an extra tang to your gumbo you might like.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:57 PM, Dr. Biggles (guest) said...
Ack, chicken sausage.

Do that fast roux, ya gotta have a roux in there. That'll change the dynamics of yer food right there. Deelightful. Here's my attempt:


On August 15, 2005 at 01:58 PM, Paul W. (guest) said...
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.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:58 PM, an anonymous reader said...
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.



On August 15, 2005 at 01:59 PM, Michael Chu said...
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.

On August 15, 2005 at 01:59 PM, Dr. Biggles (guest) said...
Eeek, arguing over to to make a proper roux is akin to arguing over which is better, a pc or mac.

It depends on what your taste is and/or what you're preparing.

I can offer a wonderful resource from somone born & raised in NOLA, if that helps anyone. I've done a handful of his recipes and read many more than that. His recipes are spot on, for the most part.

Chuck Taggart's Gumbo Pages

On August 15, 2005 at 02:00 PM, Paul W. (guest) said...
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.

On August 15, 2005 at 02:00 PM, carla lynn hall (guest) said...
I LOVE gumbo!! I'm looking forward to trying this recipe. Thanks!

carla lynne hall aka mama soul

On August 15, 2005 at 02:01 PM, Elliott (guest) said...
Down here in Louisiana, there are two prevalent types of gumbo- Chicken and andouille sausage, or seafood (crab, and shrimp- sometimes scallops)

The local grocery stores carry 'gumbo crabs', split and ready to go in the pot. In my estimation, there is nothing better than a good seafood gumbo.

Everyone I talk to down here says 'ta make a good gumbo, ya gotta start with a good roux'. I use equal parts oil and flour, and simmer until mahogany, and smells nutty. Lightly scorched, actually.

Once the roux cools, add stock or water, and bring up to simmer- add in the gumbo craps, the trinity (onion, bell pepper, and celery), and whatever-the-hell-else you want to put in there.

As for the Okra, common wisdom down here says, get fresh okra, and saute in a seperate pan before adding to the pot. that way, it won't get all slimy...

On August 15, 2005 at 02:01 PM, (guest) said...
I would really like to print this but only page 1 prints. (This is true of all recipes on your website.) Any suggestions?

On August 15, 2005 at 02:01 PM, Michael Chu said...
There's a bug in Internet Explorer which doesn't print the rest of the pages. Until I get a chance to rebuild the site, please use the Printer Friendly link (at the bottom of each article before the comments begin) to modify the layout slightly to support printing on IE.

On September 16, 2005 at 03:55 PM, TnHiker said...
Subject: Oh So Tasty But Needs Thickening...
I found this recipe to be very tasty but perhaps in need of a bit of thickening which I solved by adding some toasted flour I'd dissolved in cold water. Also, I slightly modified the procedure for addition of the sausage to get a happy compromise between salty, smoky taste and light, not-so-salty soup-like taste. Here is how I modified the recipe:

I added about 2/3 of the browned sausage at the start of the simmer process and the last 1/3 about 5 or 10 minutes prior to serving. This resulted in a not-too-salty taste but one that still had nice aromas from the long-simmered sausage pieces.

At the end of the simmering process I found the end result to be thinner than what I wanted (still very water-like). I used a "quick roux substitute" method I'd read about on another cooking website for cajun dishes which was to brown all-purpose flour in a skillet over medium heat until the flour was a nice amber color (light brown). For this recipe I used about 1/2 cup of flour which I added to the gumbo in two steps by dissolving the flour into just enough cold water to make a batter-like mix. Another few minutes of cooking the gumbo at a low boil cooked the "faux roux" enough to thicken and develop the taste. Perhaps next time I'll add more okra up front to minimize the need for thickening with flour (I had weighed-out the correct amount of okra prior to addition).

The end result was very delicious. I've had lots of gumbo dishes throughout the gulf coast region and this one holds its own with most of the better ones and is much better than many. I used Hillshire Farms smoked sausage for my gumbo and cut it into a 1/2 inch dice before sauteing. The okra was fresh picked from my garden.

On November 20, 2005 at 06:16 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Just found your site also....way to go guy, you may just make a cook out of this old man. I tried your pork back ribs last week and they were awesome. BS

On December 01, 2007 at 03:10 PM, hubby11 (guest) said...
Subject: The microwave roux works.
I was curious if one could really do a microwave roux and it turns out you can. I don't think it is any faster than on the stove top, but it is definitely easier, safer, and with less cleanup. I used 1 minute bursts but I have read you can go up to 5-6 minutes without stirring. Try doing that on the stove top!


On January 05, 2010 at 11:23 AM, kpc (guest) said...
Subject: okra stew
This is a fantastic soup! I've prepared it three times, and the last time I included shrimp. Wow! Everyone who has sampled this soup absolutely loves it. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

On January 15, 2010 at 11:22 AM, olesurfdog (guest) said...
Subject: File'
The roux is a mater of taste, from caramel to dark mahogany in color try and taste the difference, then choose the one you like. It is the foundation, and it is all about taste. File powder (basically ground sassafras leaves) can be used at the table to thicken, and is customary in some NO eateries.

Also, save some of the trinity (celery onion and bell pepper) to be add uncooked toward the end of the cooking process for a crisp and colorful surprise.

Lastly the original recipe was to make QUICK Okra Soup not create a true Gumbo which takes time. The words quick and Gumbo probably should not be used in the same sentence.

On January 11, 2011 at 08:15 PM, KoKo the Talking Ape (guest) said...
Subject: Browning the chicken?
Why don't you brown the chicken in the pan with oil first? It will give a roasted flavor to the chicken, rather than boiled. It will also give the stew a better color. The stew per the recipe looks pale and uncooked.

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