Louisiana Seafood Gumbo
Next was preparation of the gumbo. I wasn’t ready to host Christmas dinner, but I would have my Boulder Briar Patch Book Club members over and I would cook Mom’s specialty, Louisiana Seafood Gumbo. We’re from New Orleans and she made gumbo like you would not believe. Her gumbo was the best I had ever tasted, and I vowed Christmas, 2008, I would master it.
Some say the tradition of Louisiana gumbo goes back to the early 18th century and is based on traditional West African native dishes. It is the most extolled and celebrated of all Louisiana dishes and is the hallmark of most special occasions in the region. People travel from around the world to New Orleans to experience this culinary extravaganza.
The most renowned gumbo is Louisiana Seafood Gumbo, which often includes shrimp, crabs and sometimes oysters. Vegetables include green peppers, onions, garlic, bell pepper and a small hint of tomato. Many add ham or tasso (spicy cured pork), hot sausage, chicken, andouille (Cajun spicy pork sausage seasoned with garlic) and smoked sausage. The secret to a great gumbo is the seafood stock and the base, or the roux, which is added at the beginning of the process. Additional thickening ingredients are included at the very end: filé (pronounced fee-lay), a powder made from dried and ground sassafras leaves, and/or okra, which can be floured and baked first so it thickens the gumbo. There are numerous variations to this beloved staple, but ultimately, they all aim to do the same thing—create a rich, intoxicating comfort food for the soul. Gumbo is the comfort food to end all comfort foods. It heals, it restores and it redeems.
The preparer of the gumbo ought to be as seasoned as it is, and should have some life experiences under his or her belt. The most revered gumbo is prepared in community and seasoned with the secret sauce, L-O-V-E. No matter the recipe, the sheer magic of gumbo is no two pots ever taste exactly the same.
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