Lunchtime poll – how goes your gumbo?
February 18th, 2011
12:45 PM ET
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You know you're at a table full of New Orleanians when there's a 20-minute conversation about gumbo.

How dark should the roux be? Do you use file? Can you put meat in a seafood gumbo? (Scandal! John Besh went back and put okra and andouille into James Carville's mother's seafood gumbo recipe because he thought it was too thin! Mary Matalin applauded that move.) Is is really gumbo if there's no okra? Why does any of this matter?

There will never be a consensus so long as there's a representative of more than one parish, but there was definitely some food for thought. Leah Chase, often called the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," jokes the color of her roux should match the color of her skin, while John Besh takes his down to a deep brown, made darker with the caramelization of onion juices. Ms. Chase also expounded upon her famous gumbo z'herbes, which she makes for half the city on Holy Thursday.

It should have, she says, an uneven number of greens - five, seven or nine - and for each one you add, you'll make a new friend in the coming year. She loads the gumbo up with plenty of ham and sausage when she makes it on that day, because the Catholics of the city know that's the last big meal they'll have before Easter Sunday supper. "You'll still dying to sneak a piece of cheese on Good Friday," says Ms. Chase.

Leah Chase

Treme writer Lolis Eric Elie noted that Ms. Chase was not giving herself enough credit. Says he, most of the city didn't, in fact, have gumbo z'herbes as a Holy Thursday tradition - until she started making it. They ate it, and keep eating it, because she made it.

She smiled. "Sometimes when you're making gumbo, people just show up."

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soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Come On Man

    My first hit of gumbo was magical. I make my own gumbo with a reverence and yes I use Okra. Gumbo is an West African word for okra. My only sin is I mix my meats. I will do a shrimp blue crab with sausage and fried chicken pieces. Did I mention I was fat but happy.

    March 1, 2014 at 4:36 am |
  2. LA Girl

    The way gumbo is made depends on where in Louisiana you live. I'm from the heart of Cajun country and we do not put tomatoes (thats a creole thing) in our gumbo. I don't know many people who put okra in it either. And the darker the roux the better!!!!! And you should never mix seafood and meat together in a gumbo!

    February 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  3. JDub

    I'm a big fan of John Besh, but let's face it. Leah Chase has forgotten more about the art of cooking than John Besh will ever know.

    January 31, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  4. RiverParish

    After working downtown New Orleans for 10 years we would joke about the jumbo you get at places in the CBD and Quarters. We like to call it tourist gumbo because only tourist would eat gumbo so thick you can stand your spoon up in. It's not about file' or okra, darkness of roux, it's the consistancy which matter most. Or whether you have your potato salad in your gumbo or on the side.

    April 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  5. Sugabee

    Love me some good boudin!!! In gumbo, in links, out of the casing – whatever! :)

    February 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  6. Rita

    Actually, I make chicken & sausage with okra & tomatoes in mine. It kinda gives a creole twist to it. Roux is medium dark. Smoky flavor comes from sausage made right here in Dry Creek at Foreman's grocery. To REALLY kick it up a notch, try replacing the rice with boudin that has been removed from the casing. Don't forget the small scoop of mustard potato salad.
    C'est Bon!!!!

    February 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Foreman's Boudin Kitchen

      Rita, thank you very much for your support. I hope everyone looks for our natural smoked sausages, smoked meats, and our original recipe Boudin found in southern Louisiana stores.

      May 25, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  7. Wolfpack

    Put everything in there.

    February 19, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  8. Lisa NOLA

    Yes mama makes the best gumbo. So my roux looks like hers – dark with seafood & okra or chicken & Andouille BUT NEVER MIX THEM. I put shrimp, okra with andouille once and she fussed me.Don't make that mistake again. I am not a file person but everyone in the family eats it. The trick is to put it on your bowl after the gumbo is cooked (any mixture)

    February 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  9. RDR mama made the best gumbo. Dark Roux with chicken sausage and seafood. For me a dark roux gives a fuller more smoky flavor to your gumbo. Gotta save up to make it though. Buy a little bit of theingredients at a time and freeze them until you're ready to make the dish. Gotta have on a cool fall evening with a good red wine.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  10. NCJ

    Gumbo is something only served in specialty restaurants or at Mardi Gras celebrations... so I never really eat it much, and never tried making it. I could talk for hours about Chili... must be because I live in one of the far nothern states :)

    February 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Jeff

      quote "Gumbo is something only served in specialty restaurants or at Mardi Gras celebrations"
      wow! I can tell you are not from the deep south!

      Gumbo is eaten all year long.
      I could easily find 10 places near me that will have it for lunch today, and none are specialty resturants.

      February 22, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Pixburgh Pixie

      Gumbo is eaten on any occassion, with or without meat. Good gumbo
      makes you thank someone above and be happy for another day. I eat it as often as possible.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:41 am |
      • Pixburgh Pixie

        And by any occassion, I mean, "It's Tuesday" or "I'm happy" or "Your sister got married."

        March 9, 2011 at 1:42 am |
        • Margeaux

          . . . or you wake up one morning and say, "I feel like eating a gumbo today."

          February 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  11. AleeD

    Had it in my first bowl of gumbo and that's how I love it now.

    What's funny about this question is that people have the same discussions about chili (with beans or without? with meat or without?). It's all about what you like or grew up with.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Rob

    I add file to my chicken & sausage gumbo.... but haven't added okra as of yet. I wouldn't be against trying it sometime, though!

    February 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
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