New Orleans Gumbo has been called the greatest contribution of Louisiana kitchens to American cuisine. It is the quintessential dish of New Orleans with many versions of it. It is one of the representative dishes of the people who settled in New Orleans and one that can by found at restaurant, special events. homes through all the state of Louisiana.
It seems there are as many different recipes for gumbo as there are cooks in the state. There are no other hard-and-fast rules for the ingredients used in making gumbo – anything that flies, crawls, creeps, or lies still may end up in the gumbo pot. There are as many recipes for gumbo as there are cooks in Louisiana. The making of gumbo draws out the competitive streak in most Louisianans, and most cooks closely guard their recipes.
Photo courtesy of City of St. Martinvill, Louisiana.
History of New Orleans Gumbo:
The word gumbo is derived from African words for okra (guingombo, tchingombo, and kingombo), a pod-like vegetable introduced by African slaves and often used to thicken the stew. Gumbo is a classic Cajun one pot, communal stew that is especially important around Mardi Gras.
When the first French settlers came to Louisiana, they brought their love for bouillabaisse, a highly seasoned fish stew. Having none of the usual ingredients necessary to make a typical French bouillabaisse, they substituted local ingredients. After about a century, with the Spanish, Africans, and Natives of the region offering their contributions of food, the stew was no longer recognizable as bouillabaisse and became gumbo. What started out as second best became better than the original. Check out the History and Legends of Gumbo.
What is Roux? There is only one rule that remains constant in making gumbo: First you make a roux. The roux, a flour and oil or butter mixture, which acts as a thickening agent, is the gumbo’s base.
Courir de Mardi Gras
In some rural areas of Louisiana, masked and costumed horseback riders participate in what is called the Courir de Mardi Gras, which means “run of Mardi Gras.” Routes can be as long as sixty miles, and the riders may visit as many as thirty households. They ride up to a farmhouse along the route to ask permission for the group to come up to the house. When permission is granted, the riders charge toward the house, where they sing, dance, and beg until the owner offers them an ingredient for making their gumbo. Often the owner will throw a live chicken into the air that the riders will chase, like football players trying to recover a fumble.
Today, people come from all over to watch the riders start their Courir de Mardi Gras. They also are there to greet the riders after the run and to help cook a large gumbo with the food that was collected. The festivities end promptly at midnight, the beginning of Lent.
Courir de Mardi Gras photos courtesy of the web site Mardi Gras in Rural Acadiana,
published by the University of Southwestern Louisiana’s Center for Louisiana Studies.
New Orleans Style Gumbo Recipe
Leo Neil of Crosby, Texas generously shared this fantastic New Orleans Gumbo recipe with me. Leo says, “I am very passionate about New Orleans traditional cooking and it’s a shame to what culinary level the mighty gumbo has sunk. I always try gumbo in restaurants and I have been to some of the best, but they NEVER get it right.”
Categories:Cajun/Creole Dinner Gumbo Mardi Gras Rice Recipes Seafood, Soups and Chowders South Central