The Day I Made a Gumbo…

… was today. My first gumbo, too. Vegetarian and gluten-free, because I was cooking for the house. Apparently a success.

The gumbo itself is sort of a mishmash of recipes I saw online. I found such an incredible amount of diversity among the recipes that finally I decided, there is no such thing as a definitive gumbo recipe.

Gumbo is conceptual: stew, with chunks. Herbs, spicy if you like that. Slow cooked. Okra and smoked sausage are nice, but not absolutely required. (The latter I’m omitting only because this meal is to be en famille.) Often served with rice. Beans are good, but again, not 100% required. Roux likewise.

Process?

Start with the beans: garbanzo and black. Soak them overnight, cook them the day before. In a slow cooker, take one red onion, one white onion, a couple of carrots, plenty of garlic, a bay leaf, a couple of lime leaves, and throw them in a slow cooker with a bunch of water. Put it on medium for a while, then on low, and leave it. For, like, forever.

Next morning, run out to get celery because you forgot to get some. Then make a roux with rice flour, because you’re cooking for everyone and everyone includes a couple of people who are gluten free eaters. Brown that flour, really brown it, then add the onion and celery and brown them a bit in the roux.

(This took some doing: I foolishly attempted a roux with olive oil, because someone on the internet said they’d done it. Waste of time. Butter the second attempt, and it was easy and great. Brown rice flour, by the way, darkened up to a dark chocolate hue.)

Take some tomatoes, cut them in half, and then, with the flat cut sides face down, scorch them in the oven. This will provide a little of the smokiness, maybe. If you’re lucky. If not, the tomatoes will be fine.

Then it’s (almost) everything into a pot, and cook. Slowly. For a long time. Salt in there to help green things stay green. Black pepper, freshly ground, and chunks of three little fiery red Vietnamese hot pepper. In the home stretch, add the okra, red and green bell peppers, and zucchini–of which the okra and zucchini got a little time in the frypan with garlic and red onion.

Sautée some asparagus and green beans, to put on the side. A little salt to help them stay green, too.

Serve with good rice, if you can. We used non-sticky short grain rice, which perplexed us. Next time, I think it’ll be brown rice, or maybe sticky long-grain. Maybe some gluten-free cornbread biscuits on the side. (We had gluten free apple-cidery vinegar muffins, courtesy of Housemate Chris, and they were a good complement to the meal.)

Results?

It was a hit. I forgot to take pictures. It was gone pretty quickly, and I was tired. But I was asked to make it again, so I can snap a pic next time…

As for me, I wasn’t quite happy with it. I roasted tomatoes in the oven till they were a little blackened, to try get some smokiness in, but nothing. I want that smoke in my gumbo! I’ll be trying next time to smoke some other ingredient, I’m not sure which. Maybe sliced tomatoes–they have enough juice to be sticky for the smoke, maybe? Or perhaps the flour that goes into the roux?

It wasn’t bad… but it can be improved upon. Still… I don’t often see Mrs. Jiwaku going for seconds, and she did with this one.(Maybe she was proud, as she helped a little bit toward the end… or maybe she was just cautious with the first serving, in making sure everyone got some, as well as in wondering what the heck this stuff I’d made was, ha!)

So anyway, I must’ve done something right… but there’s always room to improve…

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