|GUMBO, (c) 2008, JUDY BARNES BAKER|
Gumbo is the perfect metaphor for New Orleans: a rich, steamy, spicy, mélange of diverse ingredients that combine into an experience that is unique to this place. A place that feels distinctly foreign, while at the same time epitomizing the melting pot that is America. French, Italian, Native American, Creole, Cajun, and African—all share a part in the history of the Louisiana bayou region, intersecting, interacting, and blending into a one-of-a-kind, savory stew.
Gumbo may contain a variety of local meats and seafood: shrimp, crab, oysters, crawfish, red snapper, turtle and alligator; whatever is fresh and available. It often includes Andouille sausage and Tasso ham, local specialties, and chicken. It will always have the trio of aromatic vegetables so essential to the regional cuisines that it is called “the trinity:” onion, bell pepper, and celery.
|PHOTOS (c) 2008, BY DENISE CABALLERO|
The sign out front says “Liuzza’s,” but it is also known as “Liuzza’s by the Track,” because it is adjacent to the fairground racetrack and also to differentiate it from another place by the same name. Everything is local, fresh, and made from scratch in this Mid-city neighborhood eatery. Even the sausage for Liuzza’s famous chicken, shrimp, crab, and sausage gumbo is made locally. Fresh shrimp is sautéed and added just before your order leaves the kitchen. The menu at Liuzza’s says, “taste before you season,” a lesson learned quickly in New Orleans. Disregard it at your peril!
A traditional gumbo always starts with a dark roux made of flour and fat. Most recipes say to use either okra or filé powder to further thicken the stew, but I used both in order to get the rich, thick texture of an authentic gumbo without using a floury roux. (At Liuzza’s, no two batches are ever alike, so we can take some liberties too.)
Gumbo would normally be served over rice. I opted to keep the carb count as low as possible, but it could be served over my Faux Rice (recipe in Nourished; a Cookbook for Health, Weight Loss, and Metabolic Balance, p.283) for only 2 more net carbs.
½ pound of raw, shell-on shrimp (small or medium)
¼ cup bacon fat or lard, more or less as needed
1 pound of chicken pieces, including skin and bones
4 cups of water or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt plus an additional 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped onion (about 5 ounces)
2 cloves garlic (5/8 ounce), peeled and minced
2/3 cup chopped red or green bell pepper (4 ounces)
3 cups fresh okra, rinsed, caps removed, and sliced (about 8 ounces)*
2/3 cup celery, chopped (about 4 ounces)
2 cups fresh or canned, chopped tomatoes
10 to 12 ounces andouille or other spicy, smoked sausage, sliced
6 ounces ham, cubed
3 green onions, green tops only, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
– filé powder to taste
*Frozen, thawed okra can be used instead of fresh.
Peel the shrimp. Put the shells in a large pot and add water or chicken broth, 1 teaspoon salt, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while preparing chicken.
Mix together the additional 1 teaspoon of salt and the cayenne and black pepper. Heat fat in a skillet. Coat chicken with some of salt and pepper mixture and brown on all sides in the hot fat. Add chicken to pot with stock. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the onion, bell pepper, and celery in the fat left in the skillet until softened. Add garlic and sauté for a minute or two longer. Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and reserve. Put half the okra in the skillet, turn the heat to low, and cook and stir until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes, adding more fat as needed. Add the rest of the okra, increase the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook, uncovered, until the first okra is well browned but the second batch is still partly green. Reserve.
Remove chicken from pot, take meat off bones, discard skin and bones, and chop meat into bite-sized pieces. Dip out the shrimp shells with a slotted spoon or strain the broth. Return the chicken meat to strained broth in the pot. Add reserved onion, bell pepper, and celery mixture, okra, and tomatoes to the pot. Add sausage and ham and any remaining salt and pepper mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes. Just before serving, heat fat in a skillet and sauté shrimp. Add shrimp, green onions, and parsley to gumbo and ladle into serving bowls. Stir filé powder into the gumbo after it is removed from the heat or pass at the table. The gumbo will thicken after a few minutes.
Makes 8 or 9 servings.
Per Each of 9 Servings: Total Carb: 6.9g, Fiber: 2.0g, Net Carb: 4.9
Note: File is the dried and ground young leaves of the sassafras tree. It has a mild, sweet flavor similar to thyme. It will become stringy and tough if boiled, so add it to individual servings after the pot is removed
from the heat.