I’m no gumbo expert.
I don’t have colorful tales of spending my youth in my grandmother’s kitchen while she whipped up a big ol’ pot of gumbo on her wood-burning stove, telling me stories of growing up on the bayou and singing Hank Williams songs.
That’s probably because both of my grandmothers were from Kansas where, to my knowledge, there is no bayou and neither of them seemed to care much for Hank Williams.
I need to stop here and let you know that when referring to a pot of gumbo the correct term is “big ol’”.
I mean, why would anyone make a small pot of gumbo?
It was the great Justin Wilson who introduced me to gumbo. I was in my 20s and was a big fan of Justin’s PBS show “Louisiana Cooking”. In one episode, Justin made a big ol’ pot of chicken gumbo. I was intrigued. And not just because Justin taught me how to pronounce “andouille”.
I don’t know why, but being able to pronounce andouille made me feel sophisticated.
You know, like being able to pronounce gyro or prosciutto.
Obviously, it doesn’t take much to make me feel sophisticated.
What intrigued me about Justin’s gumbo recipe was how much it reminded me of the comfort foods I was raised on. To me, Justin’s chicken gumbo seemed like a Louisiana version of my dad’s fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.
But, still, it wasn’t until several years later, when my wife gave me a copy of Paul Prudhomme’s “Louisiana Kitchen”, that I finally attempted to make a big ol’ pot of gumbo my own self.
I don’t make gumbo a lot. Probably a couple times a year which may sound like a lot but real gumbo people are more likely to make it a couple times a month.
Because I still consider myself a gumbo novice , whenever I make a big ol’ pot of gumbo I always turn to an expert.
This past weekend the expert I turned to was Lucy Buffett the younger sister of Jimmy Buffett. It’s important to note, however, that in gumbo circles it’s Jimmy who is known as Lucy’s older brother.
First Gumbo Person: Who’s that guy with the guitar and margarita?
Second Gumbo Person: Him? Oh, that’s just Lucy Buffett’s older brother.
First Gumbo Person: He’s so lucky.
Lucy owns and operates three restaurants-Lulu’s Gulf Shores, in Gulf Shore, Alabama, Lulu’s Destin in Destin, Florida and Lulu’s in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
For more information about Lucy you can dial up her website at www.lucybuffett.com.
And while you’re there you can do what I did and pull up Lucy’s winter gumbo recipe. I’m not including the recipe here because I want you to check out Lucy’s webpage. It’s neat is what it is.
I’ve never met a gumbo that I didn’t like but I really like Lucy’s winter gumbo recipe. First of all, it’s what you call your traditional gumbo recipe. A deep, dark roux, onion, celery and green pepper (The Holy Trinity) the aforementioned andouille, chicken, stock ,shrimp, oysters and a mess of spices.
Of course, the key to any gumbo recipe is the roux. Basically, a roux is a mix of hot oil and flour that you stir for-as Lucy aptly put it in her recipe-“25 to 35 minutes or until your arm feels like it is about to fall off”.
Did I mention Lucy knows a thing or two about gumbo?
Every time I make a roux, I’m amazed at how the oil and flour slowly changes from a pale white to a light caramel to a dark mahogany. To me it’s sort of like the way the leaves change in the fall. One day they’re green and the next thing you know they’re a mixture of red, yellow and orange.
Because I’m a gumbo novice I’m sort of a conservative with the heat when I cook my roux. Sure, I make sure the oil is hot enough when I add the flour, I just tend to cook it a lower temperature than I probably should because I don’t want to it to burn and have to start all over. Cooking at a lower temperature is fine, as long as it’s not too low, it just tends to take longer.
But, again, I’m lazy and would rather cook my roux a bit longer than have to start all over if I burn it.
I hope that’s not some sort of gumbo no-no.
Once the roux is done you carefully add the onions, cook them for a couple a minutes, then you add the celery and green pepper, the chicken and andouille, chicken stock and seasoning.
And then it’s time to let the gumbo simmer uncovered for-again as Lucy aptly puts it “approximately 1 hour or an entire day”.
The fact that Lucy endorses the idea of simmering her gumbo all day makes her a woman after my own heart.
Nothing makes me feel better on a Sunday afternoon than having a big o’ pot of gumbo, or chili, or spaghetti sauce or…well…anything simmering on the stove while I’m watching football, or basketball or baseball.
Last Sunday, I also made a loaf of Tuscan bread to go with the gumbo. That’s right. While I watched football Sunday afternoon, there was gumbo simmering on the stove and bread cooking in the oven.
I’ve had worse days.
A quick note. My wife told me I better give her credit for taking the photos. Well, actually, what she said was “You (Bad Word Used As both a Noun and a Verb) you better give me a photo credit.”
So here we go: Photos by my wife.