Best. Gumbo. Ever. - SoGirl Blog at - 273616


Best. Gumbo. Ever. 
Apr. 23, 2012 4:48 pm 
Updated: Dec. 11, 2012 8:55 pm
For years, I've been working on Gumbo, refining my ingredients and techniques as I learn and gain experience.  I've been cooking for at least 35 years, but I learn more every day. 

I make good Gumbo.  I think that I do, and everyone who tries my gumbo tells me the same.  But it's never been what I consider jaw-droppingly great.  Until now. 

Over the years, I've tried a variety of recipes for gumbo from many sites and books and revised them to fit my (and now our since I've married) tastes.  There are some do's and do not's for me that make or break the recipe. This is for a sausage and shrimp gumbo, my favorite. 

The do's for my perfect pot: 
DO use fresh okra.  Frozen will do in a pinch, but nothing compares to using the fresh stuff. 
DO saute the okra for a few minutes to reduce the "slime" factor. 
DO cook the roux until it is at LEAST the color or peanut butter.  Milk chocolate is even better. 
DO use raw shrimp, not pre-cooked and frozen or even worse, canned (frozen is fine, but please make it US only--you will understand why I say this if you try them side by side).
DO use fresh garlic.
DO use andioulle if you can find it.  No other sausage will give you that flavor. 
DO use a generous hand with spices, especially cayenne.  This is GUMBO, folks, and it's supposed to bring the heat on! 
DO add tomatoes.  They bring umami to the dish.  Canned is fine, and fire-roasted is especially nice.
DO saute your sausage to brown.  Just trust me on this one.  You won't regret it.   

The do not's that break the dish: 
DO NOT use celery.  I know, it's part of the holy trinity in Cajun cooking.  Call me Pagan, if you want, but I cannot abide the stuff, and I will not use it.  Ever. 
DO NOT add crab.  I really like crab.  But not in Gumbo;  it completely takes over the dish for me. 
DO NOT add chicken.  Again, I love chicken.  But the combination of shrimp and sausage is magic.
DO NOT add clam broth.  It's a personal thing.  I like this stuff in Clam Chowder and other applications, but Gumbo is just not the place to use it for me. 
DO NOT skip the roux.  It's not Gumbo without it.  It's a pain, yes (literally, sometimes--that stuff is HOT!), but it's key to the flavor. 
DO NOT skimp on onions and peppers.  You want a generous amount.  Green is best in this for me, but red or yellow work, too. 
DO NOT omit the red pepper.  Even if you are afraid of spice, please...add the red pepper! 
DO NOT cook your rice in the Gumbo pot.  You will have Jambalaya.  Which is great, but really not what we're here for, right? 

Bearing in mind the above rules I follow, I have created the Best Gumbo Ever for my family.  It's always seemed to be missing something, and I could never figure it out.  Well, I made the Gumbo last night leaving out the shrimp because I didn't want it to overcook and figured I'd throw it in tonight when I reheated.  On a whim, I decided to coat the shrimp with Cajun seasoning and hot smoked paprika and grill them.  OH MY GOSH.  THIS is what I've been missing.  THIS is the Gumbo of my dreams.  The shrimp are deeply flavored and and smoky and served on top of the Gumbo, it's a swoon-worthy bowl of goodness. 

So, now that I have my Gumbo perfected, tell me how you make yours perfect. 
Apr. 23, 2012 5:31 pm
I'm so glad this isn't another "butter" blog! I keep wanting buttered popcorn everytime I see one of them. Back to your wonderful blog! I had excellent gumbo once long ago made by a little ole lady in a hole in the wall food place. I tried to make my own but looking at your list of do's & don'ts I see where I went wrong. OMG! Grilling the shrimp! Swoon worthy indeed! Thanks so much for sharing!
Apr. 23, 2012 5:57 pm
I'm sure you have it right! (Except for the celery issue. :) ) Using rice from "outside the pot" is a key point. Day or two old is even better. Once, I even browned it when I was sauteing the sausage. I always let my gumbo rest for a few hours and then re-heat it. You have some OMG! rules that truly make a great gumbo! My first gumbo was in a little spot called Gibson in LA. That gumbo had Robin (the bird) in it.
Apr. 23, 2012 6:21 pm
Well, Cat Hill, I DO love butter, too! And buttered popcorn...YUM! I treat myself every now and then, but not too often since I'm trying to shed some weight. In my experience, the holes in the wall places have the best food! Grilling the shrimp was my AHA moment, and I'm very happy over that. It made what we already love even better. Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to make this in the middile of winter in Wisconsin....
Apr. 23, 2012 6:25 pm
Mike, I'm sure I'll be branded a herectic for the celery issue. : ) To each his own definitely in this case. And browning the rice? Now that sounds tasty, too. I knew we wanted Gumbo tonight, and that's why I made it yesterday; like any soup, it's always better in the days after. And to my last comment...Robin? Well, that's a first for me. I grew up in the South and have eaten Quail and Dove, but Robin...hmmm. Hard for me to imagine. I won't eat any of them any to hear them sing and watch them too much. : )
Apr. 24, 2012 1:43 pm
Will definitely be trying that-tomorrow sounds good in fact-thanks for sharing!
Apr. 24, 2012 4:22 pm
Butter is the only way to go but I found out there are 100 ambassadors so I guess we get to look forward to 100 butter blogs. Deep sigh! I love fresh buttered popcorn :) But I was thinking about your gumbo today. Oye, I don't think I would have thought of putting robins in a gumbo. Well, Mike won't have anything that exotic here. Afraid I watch my birds :)
Apr. 25, 2012 6:44 am
If you try grilled shrimp in the gumbo, Cat Hill, let me know how you like it. It was definitely a hit around here. 100 blogs on butter? Well, I feel like a breath of fresh air for a blog on gumbo! : ) Oh, and like you, my birds are safe around here too!
Apr. 25, 2012 6:45 am
HeidiS, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy your gumbo!
Apr. 25, 2012 10:40 am
I should clarify, somewhat. That instance in LA was the only time I had Robin. As I ate it I felt criminal because Robin is protected in MI (my home) and serves as the state bird. The flip side is, I believe, the folks in LA will eat anything that isn't eating them.
Apr. 26, 2012 7:12 am
I hear you, Mike. I didn't think you were out hunting Robins. : ) And you may be right about the folks in LA, too!
Apr. 27, 2012 9:27 am
wiseetp-Hello, now that you have perfected your gumbo recipe-would you so kindly post it as a recipe. I have never made gumbo or tasted it; however, I would like to try it now. Loved your blog.
Apr. 28, 2012 6:14 am
Yes, wisweetp, I second Lela's request! Please post your recipe. Thanks for the primer!
Apr. 28, 2012 2:35 pm
Hi, Lela and Bibi. I'll try to post my recipe. I'm a cook by feel rather than by measurement, but I think I can make an approximation. Once it's posted as a personal recipe, I'll put a note on the Buzz. : )
Susan Levy 
Apr. 30, 2012 8:34 am
I find that if I coat any shrimp or other seafood with Old Bay Seasoning or sweet paprika before adding them to a seafood stew (much like is done with garam masala for Indian food), it will always be a crowd pleaser.
Dec. 11, 2012 8:55 pm
this sounds like another out of towner making a soup... this should not be listed under best gumbo's. but thank you for addmitting that you have only been cooking for 35 years and are learning. But you need a cajun ma mere to learn the real gumbo...
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About Me
I'm a born and bred Southerner now living in the Midwest (temporarily!). I learned to cook by watching and helping my grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom were wonderful Southern cooks who cooked by "feel" rather than by measuring. And that's how I cook now, too. Recipes are more of a suggestion than instruction for me. I love to garden and use my fresh veggies in my creations, especially salsa and hot sauce, which are my specialties.
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Baked goods (especially yeast breads), soups, pizza, roasted and grilled veggies...
My favorite family cooking traditions
Christmas candy making with my mom. She lives across the country now, so we haven't been able to do that since I moved..better on the waistlines!
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Planning an outdoor party for 20 people where the main course and the main side dish were to be grilled. It was POURING when the time came. I moved everything inside and prepared the food on stovetop and oven, and it turned out beautifully anyway.
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Making biscuits at my mom's house one time and accidentally using plain flour instead of self-rising. Needless to say, I had to make another batch of biscuits when I realized what I had done! Otherwise, I've been pretty lucky!
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