Louisiana: Gumbo

My coworkers and I made some gumbo for lunch! I brought a Louisiana Cajun gumbo mix that I got from Safeway. One of the coworkers brought a big crockpot. Each lunch participant brought an ingredient or two to add to the soup. That sounded pretty fun, yes? :)

gumbo

In our gumbo, we had andouille, chicken sausage, shrimp, okra, celery, bell pepper, onion, green onion, green beans, and kidney beans. We also had our gumbo over rice.

The following is some info about gumbo, from Wikipedia:

Gumbo is a dish that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It typically consists primarily of a strongly flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions (a trio known in Cajun cuisine as the “trinity”; garlic is added to make it the “holy trinity”). Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filé (kombo).

Several different varieties exist. In New Orleans, what is known as Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish. Cajun gumbo varies greatly, but often has a dark roux with either shellfish or fowl, but not together. The Creoles of Cane River make a gumbo focused much more on filé. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then meat is added. The dish simmers, with shellfish and some spices added near the end. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice.

The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw. Gumbo may have been based on traditional West African or native dishes, or may be a derivation of the French dish bouillabaisse. It was first described in 1802, and was listed in various cookbooks in the latter half of the 19th century. The dish gained more widespread popularity in the 1970s, after the United States Senate cafeteria added it to the menu in honor of Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender. The popularity of Louisiana-born chefs such as Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme in the 1970s and 1980s spurred further interest in gumbo. The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana.

During lunch, we were wondering what was the difference between gumbo and jambalaya, as they are pretty similar. Here’s what we found out:

Think of jambalaya as a distant relative of paella. It’s got protein and vegetables (sometimes tomatoes, sometimes not), with rice and stock later simmered together or combined before serving. In contrast, gumbo — a mix of vegetables and meat or shellfish with thickened stock — is thinner and served as a soup alongside rice that’s cooked separately. Different from gumbo (which is considered a soup), étouffée’s a main course, made of one type of shellfish (crawfish or shrimp, for instance) that’s been smothered in a thick sauce and sometimes served ladled over rice. Don’t confuse any of these, of course, with the city’s historic Monday favorite: red beans and rice. (PopSugar)

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