Gumbo soup is the state dish of Louisiana, America. It is a bowl of seafood, chicken, and sausage stew that is usually served with rice. The word gumbo comes from, “gombo” which translates to “Okra” in the West African languages. This is because American Gumbo originally features okra as the main ingredient, instead of proteins like seafood and chicken. Gumbo has been eaten in the state of Louisiana for almost 300 years making it one of the oldest soups of all time.
The Origins Of American Gumbo Soup
The dish is a major part of Cajun cuisine. However, it was eaten in Africa far before it came to Louisiana. Gumbo in its simplicity is a stew made with the addition of protein and vegetables. The protein can be in the form of anything, from crab and shrimp to chicken and sausages.
There are widespread claims that the American Gumbo is a variation of the French Bouillabaisse soup. However, history, and the difference between the cooking methods of both these dishes, prove these claims wrong. The French Bouillabaisse soup is made from a broth made of fish, and tomatoes. This isn’t the case for American Gumbo. While it does include seafood today, Gumbo was originally made from okra and tomatoes, with no addition of fish whatsoever. The first protein that was ever added to American Gumbo was chicken.
This debunks the theory that American Gumbo is a rendition of the French Bouillabaisse soup. In reality, the origins of Gumbo lie with the Africans. The dish was first brought to Louisiana by African slaves in the 17th century. By the end of the 17th century, half the population of New Orleans was African, which boosted African cuisine, thereby adding more to the popularity of Gumbo Soup.
The earliest record of the dish is in 1764. An African slave, accused of stealing clothes and other resources, was interrogated about whether she had given a slave named Louis, “un gombeau”, to which she said yes.
Louisiana isn’t the only place American Gumbo is made. Stews like these can be found all over America, in areas of African settlement. The first time a gumbo recipe was written down, was in the 19th century, after the Civil War. By the mid 19th century, gumbo had become extremely popular in Louisiana, especially because people of all ethnicities, and races accepted the dish.
In 1803, gumbo was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans, and in 1804 gumbo was served at a Cajun gathering on the Acadian Coast. The dish started to get further popular when it was becoming a major thing for the various events and the fact that people genuinely started to like it for the taste.
Over time, the contributions of African, French, and American chefs have brought gumbo to the loved version of the soup we see today. However, making gumbo soup is no easy job because it requires a huge list of ingredients as well as some careful preparation. Here is one of the best recipes to make American Gumbo soup.
How to Make Gumbo?
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Olive oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- Salt – to taste
- 1 (14.5 ounces) can stewed tomatoes
- 1 (6 ounces) can tomato sauce
- 4 teaspoons file powder, divided
- 2 (10 ounces) packages frozen cut okra, thawed
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
- ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 pound lump crabmeat
- 3 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Step 1: Make the Roux
Combine the flour with the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Keep whisking the mixture, until it turns a dark brown color, and has the consistency of dough. This will take anywhere from 30-35 minutes.
You must mix the roux constantly, as the lack of water means the roux will burn if left alone for a minute or so. Remove the mixture from the heat, and keep whisking constantly, until the mixture cools down.
Step 2: Prep The Vegetables
Wash the vegetables, and chop them in a food processor. Stir the vegetables into the roux, and let the mixture simmer over low heat, until all the vegetables are cooked. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Remove it from the heat once the vegetables are done.
Step 3: Cook Your Sausage
Spread the sausage on a large skillet, or non-stick pan. Avoid overlapping the pieces. Sear the sausages, flipping in-between, until both sides are having a nice brown texture.
Step 3: Transfer to a Big Pot
Boil water in a large pot, or Dutch oven. Add the roux to the boiling water. Reduce the heat and add your seasoning (salt, pepper, sugar, hot pepper sauce). Add in your tomato sauce, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and Cajun seasoning.
Let the mixture simmer for about 1 hour, and skim off any foam that rises to the top.
Step 4: Add in the File’ Gumbo Powder
Once the stew has stewed for about 45 minutes, stir in about 2 teaspoons of file’ gumbo powder. File powder is made from dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It was used to thicken the gumbo in the absence of okra. While the roux is used for thickening in this recipe, file’ also provides amazing flavor which is why it is recommended by many top chefs as well.
Step 5: Add The Okra and Protein
In a separate skillet, cook the okra with vinegar in olive oil, till it has a brownish color and has softened as well. This will take about 25 minutes. Remove the okra with a slotted spoon, and add it to the gumbo. Mix the Worcestershire sauce in it, and the protein you have chosen. Let the gumbo simmer for about 45 more minutes. Just as you’re about to serve, mix in about 2 more teaspoons of file’ powder.
Step 6: Serve With Rice
Gumbo is always served with boiled rice. Make sure the rice is soft, but the grains are separate. You can also serve it with side dishes like potato salad. Alternatively, you can also try it out with crackers or some other snack items like chips.
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Other Important Instructions
- Gumbo can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days, but be sure to store it covered. Nonetheless, the best taste will only be there the moment you have prepared the Gumbo soup.
- You can make the roux 3-4 days in advance too. Just be sure to prevent it from getting frozen.
- You can freeze the gumbo, for up to 3-4 months. To do that, let it cool completely at room temperature. Freeze it, making sure it stays completely frozen for the entirety of the time. However, it is not a common practice.
- To thaw the gumbo, leave it out at room temperature overnight. Then, heat it in a microwave, or over a stovetop. Serve with fresh-made rice.
- You can also add Cajun seasoning to the gumbo for extra flavor. There are a lot of good brands available in the market.
- It is important to get the roux right. If the roux isn’t the perfect brown like it should be, the gumbo will be lacking in flavor and consistency.
- Keep in mind that American Gumbo soup isn’t something quite easy to make. It may take you 2 to 3 tries or even more to come up with the perfect taste. Be sure to start your first try on a day when you are completely free so that you can do it with maximum concentration and the chances of making any mistakes are significantly low.
- If something goes wrong with the roux, it is better to start again till you get it right.
Gumbo has a lot of protein and fats, due to the variety of meats in it. Seafood Gumbo is perfect for winter days because it packs a punch of flavorful broth and rich seafood. However, if you are not a big fan of seafood, chicken and beef would work well too. The recipe for gumbo mentioned above contains 283 calories, 20.9 g protein, 12.1 sugars, 16.6 g fat, and 142.6 mg sodium.
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Gumbo is very famous in the state of Louisiana. Entering the country through Africans in the 17th century, gumbo has had a long journey, to becoming the state dish of Louisiana. Today, people from France, Africa, and America all enjoy the soup. There are a lot of renditions of the famous dish. We hope you will enjoy our recipe as it is the original New Orleans version.