Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yankee Girl Gumbo and Cauli Rice

There is no dish which at the same time so tickles the palate, satisfies the appetite, furnished the body with nutriment sufficient to carry on the physical requirements, and costs so little as a Creole Gumbo. It is a dinner in itself, being soup, piece de résistance, entremet and vegetable in one. Healthy, and not heating to the stomach and easy of digestion, it should grace every table.”

William H. Coleman, ‘Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs’ (1985)

Let me state up front: I am not from Louisiana. I'm not even from the south. I am a Hoosier. An Indiana girl from my freckles all the way down to my cut-offs and bare feet. A Yankee. I am a southern transplant and I often hear, "Who knew a Yankee could make pecan pie like that?" Sometimes I feel like I need to prove to folks 'round here that a Hoosier can cook more than just corn and flat biscuits!

I may be a Yankee, but I make gumbo. And it's darn good, if I say so myself!

Gumbo is like chili and vegetable soup-- there are many variations, and everyone swears their's is the best. Ask anyone who they think makes the best gumbo and you will get the same answer, "My mama." But if you ask them what's in Mama's gumbo, you will inevitably get a million different responses. There may be a million variations of gumbo, but some things are consistent throughout: Tomatoes, okra, filé, and thickener. Thickener? "Oh, you mean rue,"..."Oh, you mean filé powder,"..."Oh, you mean okra." Yes.

There are a few ways people thicken their gumbo. The most popular, and most authentically Creole, is with a rue. Or, as we Yankees call it-- Gravy without the milk. Traditional gumbo rue is made from flour and bacon grease. It's easy to burn, but full of flavor. Of course, being both Paleo and gluten sensitive, flour is not an option, so I have to rely on other thickeners-- filé, garlic powder, and okra-- and they do a fabulous job of thickening gumbo. 

Now, while I don't make a rue for my gumbo, there is one element of the rue I will not skip out on and that is the bacon grease! We all know that flour doesn't have any real flavor, so all the flavor from the rue comes from the bacon grease. It's just not gumbo without bacon grease to me!

Now, let's talk about meat. I use shrimp. I just prefer a seafood gumbo over chicken or sausage. I've also used a mix of seafood with shrimp, calamari, squid, and scallops. However, chicken or sausage will be delicious with this recipe. If you wish to use one of those, simply brown some chicken before adding it to the pot, or throw in some chopped Paleo friendly smoked sausage!

Let me warn you: You will need a big pot for this-- it can also be done in a crock pot or slow cooker. However, like other soups, gumbo freezes quite well! Simply pour into freezer safe bags and freeze. To thaw, just place the bag of frozen gumbo into a bowl of hot water until thawed, then pour it out and reheat!

Now without further ado...

Yankee Girl Gumbo

For the gumbo...


2, 28 oz cans diced tomatoes (or 6 cups fresh chopped)
3 cups chopped okra (DO NOT de-slime, the slime helps thicken)
2 small yellow onions chopped
2 green peppers chopped
2 liquid cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 liquid cup red wine*
2 Tbs Filé powder (ground sassafras)
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp red pepper (add more for a spicier gumbo)
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup bacon grease
1 bag pre-cooked deveined shrimp thawed (I use salad shrimp because it's easier for my kiddos, but any kind will do)


In a large pot over medium heat, add all ingredients EXCEPT SHRIMP. Bring to a bubble and turn the heat down a bit. Put a lid on the pot and allow to simmer. You will need to let it simmer until the vegetables are cooked through-- at the minimum. However, the longer it simmers, the thicker and more flavorful it will be!

If you wish to make this more quickly, you can cook the vegetables in the bacon grease and then add all the other ingredients and simmer until heated through. But, don't ask me how I feel about a "quick" gumbo. Wink, wink.

Do not add shrimp until the last 5 minutes of cooking. If you are using fresh shrimp you will need to allow approximately 10 minutes for cooking. The pre-cooked shrimp will only need to be heated through. If it over cooks it will get chewy. NEVER add the shrimp frozen. It will have to cook too long. Also, if you plan to freeze portions, I suggest freezing without the shrimp and then adding some meat when reheating.

For the rice...

Cauli Rice

1 head of fresh cauliflower chopped
1 Tbs bacon grease
salt & pepper


In a food processor or blender, add fresh chopped cauliflower. Pulse until you get the size and shape of rice. In a pan over medium heat melt bacon grease. Add the cauliflower rice to the pan, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook until desired consistency. You can also steam the cauli rice if you wish; however, I am of the opinion that if you can incorporate MORE bacon grease, then do so generously. Wink, wink.

To Plate:

Fill a bowl with some cauli rice and top it with some hot gumbo. Serve with your favorite hot sauce and ENJOY!

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