I made this meal a few weeks ago whilst still on my I’ve-just-come-back-from-New-Orleans high, and am just now able to share it with you. Gumbo is of course a NOLA classic, but it usually contains either chicken or seafood. Although many people ardently take sides on which version of gumbo is better, I stay neutral in that debate, for I love them both. So I figured that if I love the Cajun (chicken) and the Creole (seafood) versions pretty equally, then it stands that I would probably love a meat free version too.
I was correct. This may not be completely traditional, and I will freely admit that I never saw a green version of gumbo on any restaurant menus when I was down there, it’s still quite tasty with huge flavor. It’s still unmistakably gumbo, but with the calorie count lowered and the nutrient density much higher thanks to the dark greens. We both loved it. And the leftovers only get better.
I found this recipe in a Rachael Ray cookbook where it was touted as one of her 30 Minute Meals. And I’m sorry, but no, Rachael, you cannot make gumbo in thirty minutes. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for recipes that come together quickly, (we all need those at times) and I’ll freely admit her 30 Minute Meals concept that launched her career into the stratosphere was pretty darn genius. But the idea of making proper gumbo in thirty minutes or less is really kind of offensive. You can’t do it. Gumbo needn’t take all day, but it does take longer than half an hour, otherwise your roux isn’t executed correctly and the flavor is off. So I heavily adapted her recipe to account for a proper roux, which yielded a delicious tasting gumbo.
And now I will answer the million dollar question people ask all the time: how long does it take to make a roux? Well, the answer varies depending on who you ask and the type of gumbo you’re making. It is generally understood that Cajun gumbo needs a darker roux than Creole gumbo. Some cooks advocate taking up to an hour to make a proper Cajun roux. But a general rule of thumb that I like to follow is that roux takes about a beer.
So crack open a cold beer, sprinkle in your flour, and start stirring and drinking (but not guzzling). When you’ve finished your beer, your roux should be done. It’s a good rule. I followed it for this gumbo, and the flavor was great. Enjoy!
Source: heavily adapted from 2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds by Rachael Ray
3 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 fresh bay leaf
1 (12 oz.) bottle pale beer
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbs hot sauce (I used Texas Pete’s)
1-2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 bundles of dark greens (I used dandelion greens), stemmed and chopped
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 scallions, chopped
Cooked white rice, for serving
First you make the roux. Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Melt the butter. When it is completely melted, sprinkle in the flour. Using a wooden spoon, start stirring. Keep stirring until your roux resembles the color of peanut butter. This will take a good 15 to 20 minutes. If it starts to smoke, lower the heat. Do not walk away or stop stirring. If it burns, you must start over, because that burnt taste will end up in the gumbo and make it taste yucky.
Once your roux is done, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.
Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and add the bay leaf. Now add the beer and stir to thicken a little. Add the stock, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, and greens. Season the greens with the nutmeg then stir them into the gumbo.
Bring to a quick boil, then let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
To serve, ladle some gumbo into a bowl, then use an ice cream scoop to serve some rice on top. Garnish with scallions and serve hot with extra hot sauce at the table.