One Reader Shares His Memory of World’s Best Gumbo and How to Recreate It
Foolproof Food Days are a lot of fun on my site. They expose my readers to new ways of thinking about and preparing the classics, so when a self-described “Southerner” and fan of mine (he shall be known here as Jon A.) offered to share his gumbo recipe, I looked forward to retelling the charming story behind it. This version of gumbo is based on Jon’s trip to New Orleans, roughly 1 year after Hurricane Katrina. There had been a wedding and the groomsman’s family—who lived in the Metairie district within ear shot of the trolley—was still having a great deal of problems inside the house. Parts of the city were still without electricity, and the kitchen had flooded so badly, that the wedding party chose to eat outside. The gumbo was prepared on a grill, right next to the family’s pool. Today’s Foolproof Gumbo recipe is written for the kitchen stovetop; however, it’s a carbon copy, ingredients wise, of everything that this wedding party enjoyed on a crisp cool night in 2006.
With Lent on the Way, This Dish is Perhaps the Most Perfect Use of Leftovers
For many home cooks, gumbo is a way to get rid of leftovers, and this recipe works well using that same notion; this version has the same trinity of meats that the best New Orleans style gumbo has: Andouille sausage, chicken and crab, but frequently uses leftover roast chicken in the fridge, or tasty remnants of last night’s crab boil. If those ingredients aren’t around, and the household still has a hankering for wedding-party gumbo, why then canned crab and chicken are used, but give any chef his druthers and it’s fresh all the way.
There’s always something fun to learn when you’re cooking, and in the case of this Foolproof Food story, the lesson learned was that coriander is the secret ingredient in recreating the gumbo from Metairie, Louisa, circa 2006. And that makes sense when you think about it. Coriander is mentioned in the ingredients on crab boil kits, so consider that next time you’re wondering what dash of spice works the best on slow simmering seafood dishes. As to seasoning, the original gumbos used an extract from sassafras leaves that give the taste that recognizable fire; you can recollect that fusion of flavor—sassafras, cayenne pepper and caramelized onions with Tony Cachere’s Original Creole Seasoning.
Happy Mardi Gras, Everyone!
I’m told that this Foolproof Gumbo was a hit on the night it was served and photographed on the eve of Mardi Gras weekend in New Orleans. I understand that the family enjoyed it around a fire-lit bracero on an unseasonably cold night—even for February!
Have a recipe you’d like to share? Send it to me, and we’ll chat about its background and inspiration and do a Foolproof Food post that encourages our tight-knit community of home chefs to give it a try. Thanks for reading!