Happy National Gumbo Day – Celebrate with a Mississippi Family Favorite


The gumbo I like best comes from Mississippi, my home state. There’s nothing quick and easy about making it, but the time spent produces a rich enough taste to satisfy the most discerning palate. It’s spiced softly and flavored by a deep, nutty-tasting roux, fresh vegetables, and a blend of sausage or chicken or seafood or all. To celebrate National Gumbo Day here are three favorite Mississippi gumbos – two from Delta Zeta sorority sisters from the University of Southern Mississippi and a third from a former governor and U.S. Senator whose gumbo recipe made it all the way to the archives of University of Southern Mississippi.

Beverly Johnson Mitchell’s family Dubisson-Pichon recipe is so popular her daughter-in-law had it transformed into the art reproduced above. For me, the two things that make this gumbo exceptional are the use of olive oil and adding part of the green onions early during the cooking, while reserving the rest for the final cooking stage.

Dubuisson-Pichon Seafood Gumbo

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4-6 cups peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 c chopped green pepper
  • 4 cups chopped okra
  • 1 TBSP chopped garlic
  • 1/2 pound sliced andouille
  • 1 can tomato paste or canned tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cups chopped green onion
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3-6 boiled crabs cleaned, halved
  • 1/2 tsp Tony’s

Instructions: In a large pot, sauté okra, onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and half of the green onions in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes and continue to simmer. Meanwhile, in an iron skillet, prepare a deep mahogany roux by whisking flour and oil over medium heat. Add andouille to roux and cook 1-2 minutes. Slowly add stock to roux and stir, forming a thick gravy. Add gravy and the rest of the stock to the pot and simmer for 30-60 min. Add shrimp, crab, bay leaves and reserved green onions and simmer for another 15-30 minutes.

Krhut’s Chicken, Crab and Shrimp Gumbo

Lorinda Smith Khrut, Delta Zeta sorority sister and longtime Director of Residence Life at University of Southern Mississippi, shared the family gumbo recipe she’s been cooking for more than 30 years. She got it from her mother-in-law and now the recipe is is part of the USM Dining Hall Gumbo Contest Recipe Collection.

  • 1 whole chicken breast or whole chicken
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 4 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1- 1 lb. can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP Piccapepper sauce or 8-10 drops Tabasco
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. claw crab meat
  • 1 ½ lb. cleaned shrimp
  • 1 – 10 oz. package frozen okra

Instructions: Boil the chicken in water seasoned with celery leaves. Broth will taste better if use a whole chicken. (Remove dark meat after cooking if using a whole chicken). Save the broth and add bouillon cube and enough water to make three cups. Dice chicken and set aside. Mix broth, chicken, and all ingredients except seafood and okra in large pot. Bring to boil and lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

While simmering, make the roux.

  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 TBSP dried parsley

Instructions for Roux:

Brown the oil and flour in a heavy skillet for 30-45 minutes, stirring until the roux is caramel colored. (If the roux gets too dark, start over. This will make or break the gumbo). Add chopped vegetables and okra and still until wilted. Remove from heat and place in a 4 cup Pyrex container. Add hot water stirring to bring roux to 4 cups.

Add roux mixture to simmering soup. Simmer covered about one hour. (At this point, gumbo can be frozen for later use). Add crab meat and shrimp and continue simmering for 20 minutes. Turn off stove and let rest with lid on until ready to serve. (Recommend 1 hour if can wait that long).

Serve over rice with parsley garnish. At any point, gumbo may be thinned or increased by adding hot water or chicken broth.

The Governor’s Gumbo Is Tastier Than His Rhetoric

University of Southern Mississippi’s Special Collections houses the papers of former governor and U.S. Senator Theodore G. Bilbo. According to the archives, Bilbo thought himself a foodie and submitted his French Gumbo Filé recipe to the Mississippi Sun newspaper (Charleston), describing it as “the best dish in the world when it is properly prepared.” He also complained to the National Restaurant Association about the lack of gumbo in restaurants when taking the group’s Palate Poll. His 1941 recipe (well, the yellow carbon copy of it) is available at https://www.lib.usm.edu/spcol/exhibitions/item_of_the_month/iotm_feb_2013.

Happy National Gumbo Day! I’m off to eat the gumbo I cooked yesterday — it’s always better the second day.

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Gumbo for Breakfast? Why Not?

Monday is National Gumbo Day, and I’m celebrating early with Sunday breakfast gumbo. Why not? Everything, including breakfast, is topsy-turvy in 2020. Food critic Bea Wilson writes in the Wall Street Journal that the pandemic is changing our dining patterns. We are allowing more time for leisurely, hearty breakfasts at home. I suspect kids still go for Tony the Tiger or Cap’n Crunch, but a resurgence in a more relaxed grown-up breakfast makes sense in an otherwise stressful time. 

Following 2008, brunch was emerging as big business in the restaurant industry. In fact, prior to COVID-19 shut-downs, breakfast was the booming part of the industry, according to an Eater study. Ben & Florentine, a chain that sells breakfast restaurant franchises, maintains breakfast means profit. After, all eggs are cheap. Of course since that report, the pandemic upended the statistics and escalated the price of eggs.

I haven’t seen any breakfast gumbo franchises but a handful of restaurants in the South serve versions of “gumbo” for breakfast. The French Press in Lafayette, Louisiana, offers a Cajun Benedict with gumbo sauce on their breakfast menu, while a Chevron station in Satsuma, Alabama, makes a gumbo breakfast bowl of eggs, grits, and two types of sausage. The dish is so popular that hundreds of customers line up for breakfast gumbo on the weekend and food bloggers try to duplicate the recipe.

A closer version of my idea of gumbo for breakfast is served at Gumbo Ya Ya’s in New Orleans. They serve real gumbo on a buttermilk biscuit with a fried egg.

For my Sunday gumbo brunch, however, I want the real gumbo taste and texture, not just a gumbo sandwich or a gumbo made of scrambled eggs and grits or a makeshift benedict.

My gumbo breakfast dish is inspired by Ivy Wild’s Gumbo Sauce recipe, which I first wrote about in 2015.  Of course, I cut down the size of the recipe since it makes a couple of gallons, and I use andouille sausage rather than smoked sausage. Ivy Wild’s original recipe needs a little kick for my taste.

Use the recipe on back and replace water with heavy cream.
Jim N Nick’s biscuit mix goes perfect
with a gumbo brunch.

My menu looks complicated, but it’s simple. I buy precut fruits, make packaged Jim Dandy grits using half and half or heavy cream, warm up a jar of Smucker’s blackberry jam and top with a few fresh blackberries, and use Jim N Nick’s Mix dry biscuit mix. The cheese biscuit mix’s flavor is a perfect complement to andouille. The gumbo sauce is the only part of the menu that takes time, but at least you can buy prechopped vegetables as a time saver.

And suddenly we’re eating gumbo as the most important meal of the day. And I’m going to need my energy because I’m cooking gumbo for a crew of teachers on National Gumbo Day.

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Before coronavirus: Longing for summer sales gone by

This copper vintage Commun-a-hood working exhaust fan caught my attention at an estate sale in Pensacola, Florida in the Summer of 2018.

CDC pandemic warnings are keeping me inside my house this summer. I live three miles from a gorgeous beach, but it’s my Friday morning estate sale jaunts I miss the most. I like plundering through old cookbooks in long-abandoned kitchens.  

Even though a handful of auction and estate sale companies are once again holding estate sales, I’m not ready to venture out. My county’s Covid-19 positive tests have increased exponentially, and my safety circle is getting smaller. I know of nine people with positive test results. So I’m hanging out at my house – not someone else’s, especially houses hosting estate sales.

Even before the coronavirus invasion, I wanted a hot shower after going to some estate sales. The best hand-sanitizers couldn’t remove the dust, gunk and odors that crept into my clothes and hair. But, in retrospect, one good sale on a Friday morning made it all worthwhile. Now I despondently scroll through my camera roll, remembering sales of days-gone-by.

The push button range still worked in this vintage kitchen. Of all my cookware, my green Club Aluminum Dutch oven like the gold one featured in the photo makes the best oven-baked roux for gumbo.

At estate sales in abandoned homes, sometimes the old grease-splattered kitchens were more interesting than the dog-earred cookbooks I was seeking. At one late-summer sale in Pensacola in 2018, I snapped photos of these vintage kitchen appliances – still in working order. When the home was built, I suspect it was on the “Parade of Homes” or advertised as a builder’s “model home.”  Except for the dining room where new plush mauve carpeting accented the well-polished Duncan Phyfe furniture, the house was in its original state. The kitchen was a time capsule.  Gold laminated countertops trimmed with chrome aluminum edging displayed stacks of out-of-date dishes for sale –from deviled egg platters to colored Pyrex bowls to floral Corning Ware casserole dishes.

Whoever cooked in that vintage kitchen left no cookbooks for my collection. But in the Summer ’18, I found these recipe jewels at other estate sales.

From Our Keepsake Cookbook from the Women’s Christian Society of Service, United Methodist Church on Gadsen Street in Pensacola, (2nd edition, 2002) comes a country style gumbo recipe I’ve never seen before. It looks like a delicious summer treat, but it’s extremely high in carbs, so beware.

At another estate sale in the Summer of ’18 I found this diet-friendly chicken gumbo recipe in Holly Berkowitz Clegg’s A Trim and Terrific Louisiana Kitchen. It’s lighter on tomatoes as well as calories.

Despite the pandemic, I did hop along for a ride with my son to Joe Patti’s Seafood Market in Pensacola. I sat in the car while he shopped inside for gumbo shrimp. Lots of folks driving vehicles with out-of-state license plates were on hand that day. The parking lot was as full as it is during the Christmas holidays.  You see, the beaches in the Florida panhandle are still open, as opposed to Miami. In the Summer of 2018, I found this “light” seafood recipe at an estate sale.

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Quick & Easy Gumbo for the Saints Playoff game

My black and gold flag is flying and I’m ready for Sunday’s Saints-Eagles NFL Playoff game. A cold, Sunday afternoon of football calls for gumbo –a big simmering pot full.  But I’m ready to watch football, not cook, so I’m pulling out the crock pot.  In my search for 300 gumbo recipes to celebrate New Orleans’ 300 years, I’ve collected half a dozen quick and easy recipes.

New Orleans native, fellow Saints’ fan and Colorado resident Karen Veith sent this recipe to add to my 300 collection.

For Christmas, I received two jars of Low Country Gumbo Mix so I made two varieties using it as a the base. It’s a strong tomato, roux-less gumbo, but my family liked it for a change. I tweaked the recipes on their website  and added  nearly a pound each of the sausage and seafood. I needed the gumbo to stretch. For the vegetarian version, I used more tofu than the original recipe called for.

Pete Federovich sent this Emeril Lagasse slow cooker recipe for my collection. These last two are from cookbooks I use frequently, Fix It and Forget It Cookbook and Gwen McKee’s Little Gumbo Cookbook, both available on Amazon.

And that’s six more making my News Orleans total 136. Who D’at!

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Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Gumbo Recipes

turkey art

Anyone from Louisiana will tell you, the day-after Thanksgiving means turkey gumbo.  If you’re like most Americans, there’s a turkey carcass hogging a shelf in the refrigerator and there’s nothing better to make with it than turkey gumbo.  Here are nine different recipes, each which can magically transform that mound of bones into a delicious day-after feast.

As I study the sources of these recipes, I’m thankful for the dear friends, neighbors, colleagues and fellow writers who, over the years, have shared their lives and recipes with me, and for the new friends who continue to enrich my life with their kindness and generosity.  As my quest for 300 recipes to celebrate New Orleans 300th year continues (this post brings me to 130), I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and an empty refrigerator top shelf.

TG 2TG7TG 1TG 4TG 6TG 9TG 4TG 6TG Plantationfunny-face-turkey-chicken_m1n1mz_L


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Bewitching reading? Introducing the Gumbo Diaries Who Dat? Clueless Cookbook List

Cover art weird.jpg

Online bookseller Abe Books has a wide array of “weird cookbooks” for sale. The site claims there’s a “worldwide appetite for weird cookbooks”and even conducted a poll to discover the world’s weirdest cookbook.  Winning the dubious honor was Manifold Destiny: The One, The Only, Guide To Cooking On Your Car Engine. The other winning titles are also self-explanatory but a couple sound a few alarms.  The Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, however, did not write Cooking in the Nude.  And the Road Kill Café, in Elberta, Alabama, doesn’t serve the same road kill as The Roadkill Cookbook.  The book’s recipes are from exotic places like Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Chili and Germany. The café offers a greasy buffet of Alabama favorites – mostly mac and cheese, greens, meatloaf and potatoes. Neither road kill tempts my palate.

In 2013, Mental Floss, an online provider of “amazing facts,” made a similar cookbook list. Their list of fifteen compiles “strange” and “awesome” cookbooks. Some of these titles, however, are so strange and awesome that long subtitles are necessary to translate the title.

I’ve made a list, too — The Gumbo Diaries Who Dat? Clueless Cookbook List. My choices are more puzzling than weird,  sort of like the name of my list. For my new readers, “Who Dat?” is an expression used by New Orleans Saints’ fans, evolving from New Orleans’ colloquialism asking “Who is that?”  similar to the  expression “Where Y’at?” meaning “Where are you?”

To make my Who Dat? list, the title of the cookbook must catch me a little off guard and tease me into opening the book. And, of course, the cookbook must contain at least one gumbo recipe.  Most cookbooks on my list I discovered at estate sales. Each caused me to wonder why and how the owner ever acquired such an oddly-titled collection of recipes.


Space 1 (1)

The title implies space invaders and aliens and the cover art reinforces that message. Much to my surprise, the book, published by the Cocoa Beach, Florida Woman’s Club, includes favorite recipes from astronauts and V.I.P.s  of  the space program. The seafood gumbo recipe from Doris Parsons is a favorite with W.N. Parsons, a technical liaison supervisor with Boeing.


Oddball 1

bank (1)2. BARNETT RECIPES: Great Recipes You Can “Bank” On!

The staff at the Barnett Bank of West Florida put together a cookbook of recipes you could bank on. The problem is you can’t bank with them anymore. A larger bank gobbled up the Barnett Bank of West Florida in 1996 (and served it over rice).


Cranberries3. ALL THIS BEGAN WITH CHINABERRIES by Van Blanchard

I saw a copy of this 1987 book at two different estate sales within hours of each other.  I wish I’d taken more pictures or could recall the explanation of the title. I’m pretty curious about what “all this” is. Chinaberries, after all, are extremely poisonous and can kill you, that is, after you experience diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, seizures, and cardiac arrest. A curious cookbook, indeed, but it has the author’s flexible gumbo recipe, sans chinaberries.



GB Hospital (1)This is a book without a title, so of course I opened it. The cover displays only the name of the organization and a sketch of the hospital’s exterior so I was curious to discover the contents, which, of course, were recipes, including one for gumbo. Naming the book was probably difficult since the words hospital and food used together remind many of us of the Halloween game where you’re blindfolded and have to guess the food on the tray by feeling it.GB Aux CB2GB Aux CB


Parsons Wife (1)


These gals can cook. The best cheese grits I’ve ever eaten were made by an Episcopal priest’s wife from Mississippi.  These cooks are constantly called on to create culinary wonders in their home kitchens to share with congregants at church dinners, funerals, wakes, bishops’ visits, Sunday brunches, picnics on the ground, homecomings, and Wednesday  night dinners.  I flipped furiously to find a gumbo recipe and was thrilled to find two.


Parsons 2Parsons 1

Can you make a roux6. WHO’S YOUR MAMA,  ARE YOU CATHOLIC, AND CAN YOU MAKE A ROUX? By Marcelle Bienvenu

This book, on loan from writer friend Lucie Wade, is signed by the author Marcelle Bienvenu, a native Louisianan with careers in both journalism and the restaurant business. She wrote the weekly column “Cooking Creole” for The Times-Picayune newspaper. As a researcher and consultant for Time-Life books, she contributed to Foods of the World American Cooking, Creole and Acadian and the American Wilderness — The Bayous.   A handwritten note inside Lucie’s book describes Marcelle as a “great cook and wonderful story teller.”  I believe Marcelle must also be a great headline writer because her cookbook title poses the three questions every native Louisiana mama has asked.   The book, available on Amazon, includes seven gumbo recipes along with other heavenly dishes and sinfully decadent desserts.  Grimilles Gumbo reminds me of my favorite Po’ Boy, Roast Beef with Debris.  The debris is the left-over beef bits and gravy in the bottom of the roasting pan, like the grimilles in this gumbo — divine.

Who';s Your Mma

Next to Marcelle’s, only one other title thoroughly intrigues me. Alas, I’ll Cook When Pigs Fly has no gumbo recipe.

And that’s eight more gumbo recipes to tally 121 so far in my quest for 300 gumbo recipes to celebrate New Orleans 300th birthday.

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From Boarding House and Side Board to Wooden Spoons and Wooden Cookbooks

cover artI’d never seen a wooden cookbook cover until last week, and then in a span of four days I saw two cookbooks with wooden covers – published 32 years apart.  The older one, published in 1939, has reached American Folk Art status – but I didn’t know that when I bought it.

My copy of Fine Old Dixie Recipes cost me $3.50 at an estate sale. It’s an unusual yet confusing find. The cover, inside cover and title page all list different titles. There’s Fine Old Dixie Recipes on the cover, Southern Cookbook: 322 Old Dixie Recipes on the inside inside covercover, and Southern Cook Book of Fine Old Recipes on the title page. According to a cookbook history site, the book’s publisher Culinary Arts Press in Reading, Pennsylvania produced small cookbooks from 1934 until almost fading away in the 1990s, to finally reissue classic cookbooks in 2009. My estate sale find originally sold for five cents and I found it online for $97. That’s when I learned it was folk art.

This cookbook is a piece of history (well, maybe historical fiction) that extols the sunny South as a place of fertile fields, plentiful fruit trees and bountiful waterways. The editors promise to “reveal carefully guarded secrets of real Southern cooking.”  The recipes, the editors write, are mostly from Southern city folks, some who undoubtedly gathered their recipes from their mammies (yes, they say that).  A few more pompous assumptions, poems in rhyming dialect, and African-American caricatures foster stereotypes of the South which no doubt added to today’s current racial discord. It’s definitely a collection of Southern recipes for Northerners (note I didn’t say Yankees). Regardless, the gumbo recipes look authentic.

REvised Southern

Revised shrimp gumbo

Fine Old Dixie Recipes

Chicken Oyster FOD

I recognized the wood encasing the second cookbook instantly.  When my husband sold paneling in the early 1970s, I helped him learn product names using flash cards taped to the back of paneling samples. A Dash of Sevillity, published in 1971 by Pensacola Heritage Foundation, is bound between two pieces of Georgia-Pacific’s “Piccadilly” paneling.


I’d recognize Georgia-Pacific paneling anywhere after learning all the designer names in the 1970s. This “Picadilly” makes  a great cookbook back.

I’d seen a 2003 edition of this cookbook at the genealogy library, but even the library doesn’t have this wooden-cloaked treasure. Fellow writer Lucie Wade shared her copy with me and pointed out the three-and a-half- page primer on “The Authentic and Original Way to Make Oyster Gumbo.” The first ingredient is one full quart of Tennessee sour-mash bourbon for the cook and his helpers. The second ingredient stopped me in my tracks — a 7-pound elderly rooster.

I probably won’t cook the following gopher gumbo either because it took me two years to realize a gopher is a Florida tortoise. But the recipe looks simple enough – except for finding turtle meat.  Besides, in Florida now gopher tortoises are a threatened species and both tortoise and burrow are protected by state law.  Pensacolians must have dined on lots of Gopher Gumbo.

Sevillity 2Revised Sevillity 3

Sevillity 1

Pensacolians take great pride in their gumbo, gopher or not. So with this ending quote, I tally 113 in my quest for 300 gumbo recipes to celebrate New Orleans’ 300th birthday.

{ensacola pull quote


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Restaurant Gumbo: Half a dozen bowls worth sampling

Rue Royale

I rarely order gumbo at restaurants, and if I do, it’s because I’ve sampled it first. I’m picky about gumbo. Far too many people dislike gumbo, and that’s probably because they haven’t tasted good gumbo like my grandmother’s, my father’s or mine. Gumbo at restaurants is rarely the real thing.

I like to know what’s in restaurant gumbo. Before ordering a sample, I ask the server about the ingredients; I don’t even taste those with oysters or fish (except grouper). If a sample is too watery, too spicy or too fishy, I suspect the cook is serving six-day-old gumbo. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to ask a server “What day of the week does your chef make gumbo?” but I’ve heard some cooks just water down what’s left in the pot. Daily, they add a little more hot sauce and a little more stock to make the gumbo last the full week. Making gumbo is hard work but if it’s not fresh, it’s not worth 99 cents or $4.95 a cup.

Some restaurants are famous for their gumbo and share elaborate recipes with the world. After the home cooks see the ingredients and the time required, chances are they’ll order a quart to go, just what the restaurant intended.

The Gumbo Shop

630 St. Peter 

New Orleans

One restaurant takes a different approach. The Gumbo Shop in New Orleans, which serves the best I’ve eaten in the Crescent City, offers one of their gumbo recipes to tourists so they can cook gumbo at home to savor their love of The Gumbo Shop and the French Quarter until they return.

Gumbo Shop Sseafood Okra

Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant

110 Rue Magnolia, Biloxi, Mississippi

mmoneysBiloxi, located on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, is home to, Mary Mahoney’s, an upscale restaurant located in the Old French House dating to 1737.  Famous for seafood, steaks and French cuisine, Mary Mahoney’s been operating in the historic house since the 1940s.  It survived Camille and Katrina and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While a college student, I dined there and was so enamored with the beauty of the historic home and the lore that surrounded it, I can’t remember what I ate. At that time, legend claimed the bar was located in old slave quarters.  I don’t know if Katrina washed away the slave quarters and spared the home or if the owners are more sensitive now because there’s no mention of slaves on the website. It would be nice if I could say Mary Mahoney’s is named after the first African American licensed nurse, Mary Eliza Mahoney, but it’s not so. The original owners were the late Bob and Mary Mahoney and her brother Andrew Cvitanovich. Still a family operation, their gumbo is famous. In 1987 the restaurant shared the recipe with the cookbook editors for Keesler’s Art in Cuisine from Keesler Air Force Base. I spotted one at an estate sale a few weeks ago and photographed the recipe.

Mary Mahoney's

Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s

200 E 25th Ave, Gulf Shores, AL

cp2Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama, is a beach-style dining experience where folks wear shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops, bring the kids and often arrive by boat. The food is exceptional and Lulu’s is as famous for gumbo as its owner Lucy Buffett (Jimmy’s sister) is for cooking and storytelling. Her cookbooks delight the reader with tales of friends making gumbo, an all-day event. You can see it takes a crew to make it from this restaurant recipe featured in Coastal Palate.



12595 Sollace Freeman Highway, Sewanee, Tennessee

51PKnrxXyCL._SX260_In his book Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat in the South, food and drink writer Chris Chamberlain recommends eating gumbo at only one Southern restaurant before you die, and it’s not in New Orleans. This choice is on top of Monteagle Mountain in the college town of Sewanee, Tennessee, home to University of the South. Chamberlain should know – he lives in nearby Nashville. Shenanigan’s is a restaurant and pub in a funky old  house, but Chamberlain’s readers might be disappointed because the menu (online) doesn’t list gumbo. Maybe they ladle it out from their food truck. Gumbo or not, I’d still try their muffaletta.

Shenanigan's Seafood Gumbo

Marina Café

404 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL

marina-cafe-grand-entranceWhen I found the book Marina Café: Flavors of the Gulf Coast at an estate sale, I was surprised to learn Marina Café, which overlooks Destin Harbor, serves classic Chicken and Andouille gumbo – not seafood. That’s refreshing. I’ve never visited the restaurant or tried the recipe, but both look enticing.

Marina Cafe

Dooky Chase’s

2301 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans

or Louis Armstrong International Airport (Kenner)

tremeCreole chef, restaurateur and nonagenarian, Leah “Dooky” Chase is legendary for gumbo. She’s also a New Orleans television personality, author and household name when it comes to making gumbo. Her main restaurant is located in Treme near the French Quarter, but I found her location at the Louis Armstrong International Airport excellent, and the lines much shorter. Her recipe for Gumbo Z’Herbes is featured in the book Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans by Lolis Eric Elie.  The author, Elie, is a New Orleanian filmmaker, journalist and food historian. I first learned about him when I read an article he wrote about gumbo for Smithsonian Magazine.

I love Gumbo Z’Herbes and could drive to New Orleans in less than four hours, which is about how long it takes to make the following recipe.  A commuter flight would be faster, but the cost of a cup of gumbo at the airport would soar over $300. If only we had the Amtrak back.

Dooky Chase's


D Chase Airport (2)gumbo crp

Right: A cup for gumbo from Dooky Chase’s airport restaurant. Photo by Diane Skelton


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Green Gumbo Recipes: 100 and Counting

NOLA new

The City of New Orleans is celebrating with birthday signs displayed across the city. This one is located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Photo courtesy Pat Gould-Black.

When a friend refused to believe there could actually be 300 recipes for gumbo, he mimicked the Bubba Gump routine “fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, baked shrimp, shrimp with rice, shrimp etoufee.”  His remarks made me pause to wonder if my quest for finding 300 different recipes to celebrate New Orleans 300th birthday was improbable.

I’d never stopped to think about it before. When I boldly began the quest, I not once questioned my chance at success.  Long before I read the article in Bon Appetit  I knew there are as many variations of gumbo as there are pots in Louisiana. For me, gumbo is as diverse as the city that made it famous.Pull quote box

We journalists aren’t known for our math skills, but any good mathematician or computer programmer could figure my odds of success based on provided variables. The varying instructions and ingredients could implode a calculator.  The steps for making a gumbo can rival the text of a dissertation, while the ingredients usually mean a trip to the grocery store. Here’s what makes recipes different:

Brew the Roux

Either you start with a roux — or you don’t. If the recipe calls for a roux, it will usually specify a color, often that of a copper penny,  while others use a more artistic palette. Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen includes photos of the four key colors of roux along with a great explanation of each.

Top Row: Light brown is used more often in sauces and gravies for heavier dark meat such as beef, venison and game like wild duck and goose.  Medium brown roux is used instead of light brown roux when a somewhat stronger, deeper and nuttier flavor is desired. Bottom Row: Dark red-brown roux is for light, sweet meats as domesticated fowl and rabbit, pork, veal and seafood. It is also used for gumbos. Black roux is used for a stronger flavor than dark red-brown. It takes practice to make a black roux, but it’s really the right color for a gumbo. From Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen.

Blessed Be

A major component of most gumbos is the Holy Trinity — celery, onions and bell pepper. Onions matter – red, white or yellow, Vidalia or Noonday or Bermuda or Peru, and some cooks, like John Besh, don’t use bell pepper in gumbo (his mama didn’t like it).

Spices of Life

Bay leaves, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne are typical but occasionally a recipe calls for Kitchen Bouquet, Tony Chachere or Old Bay. Bay leaves are the spice most used, but it’s that other sacred ground leaf that some gumbo cooks swear by, but never add until the last minute. Filé is ground from sassafras leaves.

Kick it Up a Notch

As Emeril says, what will you kick it up with? Red pepper pods,  Tabasco or Worchester or Louisiana Hot Sauce? That varies, too.

 It’s Not Gumbo Without

The most debated ingredient is okra. Some people say gumbo isn’t gumbo without okra. For many cooks, okra is the thickener for their gumbo, but the absence or presence of okra adds to the variable list along with tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. After all, the word “gumbo” is derived from the West African “ngombo” for okra.

Pull quote box3

The Kitchen Sink

Add meat, poultry or seafood – oysters, shrimp, dried shrimp, crabmeat, crab bodies, crab legs, frog legs, fish, crawfish, beef, chicken, smoked sausage, andouille sausage, ham, duck, goose, turkey, guinea, boiled eggs, venison, quail or any combination that suits you. Or make it vegetarian.

Cook it Your Way

I like to add fresh garlic after the liquid like Leah “Dooky” Chase, a ninety-five-year-old New Orleans chef. The garlic doesn’t’ burn that way. Some cooks make their own seafood or chicken stock, while others use stock straight from the box or water out of the faucet.

Serve it Your Way

Usually over rice, but will it be with potato salad, chopped green onions or parsley?

To celebrate a milestone in my adventure (100 of 300 gumbo recipes), I’m posting a dozen variations of Gumbo Z’Herbes and its cooking cousins Gumbo Vert and Green Gumbo. It’s the most difficult gumbo I’ve ever made, but also one of the most delicious. The ingredients alone are mind-boggling but the superstition that goes with it is even more fascinating.

The original Gumbo Z’Herbes (pronounced gumbo zav or zab) was a dish prepared on Holy Thursday for good luck. It was made of seven greens ranging from spinach to beet tops to dandelion leaves. The original version was meatless, and Cajuns believed if you ate seven greens on Holy Thursday and met seven people on Good Friday, you would have good luck all year.  Others say Gumbo Z’Herbes is to be eaten on Good Friday. It is, for sure, a Lenten dish delicious anytime of the year when fresh greens are available. Tradition holds you can make it with more than five or seven greens, but the number must always be odd. I used eleven in my first attempt!  As tradition evolved, cooks have added meat, but I prefer the original vegetarian version.

My Favorite Gumbo Z'HerbesGulf Coast KitchensGourmet's Guide 1 greenGreen Gumbo Talk About GoodGumbo&Soup1NO Cookbook Gumbo Z'HerbesLittle Gumbo Book Gumbo Z'HerbesGourmet's Guide 2 greenJCFG Gumbo Vert

You might notice this post features only nine recipe cards when I promised a dozen Gumbo Z’Herbes recipes.  On closer inspection, you’ll see the last two recipes have enough variations to add three more recipes, for a total of twelve recipes for Gumbo Z’Herbes.  The hardest thing making this dish, for me, is saying it correctly.  Here’s a great John Besh Food Netowrk video. He’s cooking Green Gumbo with Dooky Chase, famous New Orleans Gumbo Z’Herbes  chef.  He says “gumbo zav” enough times I can almost pronounce it just like John Besh, with that soft New Orleans lilt.

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Where You From?

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I started to eavesdrop when I heard the word “gumbo.”  Behind the beauty shop privacy screen, two strangers, each getting a pedicure, were discussing a new Cajun restaurant on the beach. As my stylist shampooed my hair, I listened carefully, enjoying anonymity while the two women talked about jambalaya, shrimp creole, and red beans and rice. From their voices I detected Louisiana accents, one more pronounced than the other.

The older, stronger accent inquired what part of Louisiana the young voice came from.

“I’m from Jeanerette, that’s in Cajun country.”

The mature voice, heavy with its New Orleans intonation, asked “How long you been here?”

The Cajun gal answered, “Thirty years.”

New Orleans replied, “Well, you’re not from there anymore.”

I disagree. Everybody’s from where they say they’re from. It might not be where you were born, but it’s where you say you’re from even if it’s thirty years past. For Southerners, it’s usually the place of birth. Geography settles in our skin and bones during the formative years. Subtle reminders bury into our subconscious. For me, the smell of marsh mud reminds me of where I’m from, even though I’ve been gone twice as long as I lived in Pascagoula, Mississippi. I’ve lived all over and called lots of places home, but I’m from Pascagoula.

The day after overhearing the conversation, I headed out on my usual Friday morning rounds to estate sales. At the first stop, I discovered immediately where the homeowner was from without a word.  She hails from Louisiana – maybe even Jeanerette like the Cajun gal in the beauty shop. Jeanerette is located in Iberia Parish, home of the World Championship Gumbo Cook-off.  The estate sale homeowner probably spent a few years in Mississippi before moving to Florida.  Sometime from 1969 to 1992, with emphasis on 1984, she probably lived around Lafayette.

I learned all this in a kitchen closet studying her cookbooks — the bookmarked pages, food splatters, copyright dates, publishers, inscriptions on the title pages, and notes in the back.  And, I didn’t need to eavesdrop, except I did overhear the owner had sold the house and moved to a retirement community.

Her collection of Creole and Cajun cookbooks was so remarkable that I broke my cardinal rule and shelled out cash for cookbooks – five of them at two bucks each.  I did louisiana regionsphotograph a few recipes in other books, but these five cookbooks alone contain a total of 63 gumbo recipes.  That’s proof positive the homeowner appreciated Cajun and Creole cuisine.  According to tourism sources, Cajun Country is one of the five regions of Louisiana and stretches from Houma to Lafayette to Lake Charles. New Orleans isn’t included – it’s a tourist region all of its own. IMG_3998

The real puzzle for me is the year the homeowner settled in the Pensacola area. I could have figured it out if I’d been a better sleuth.  One tell-tale cookbook, published by Odom Realty of Pensacola, looked like a newcomer-gift a realtor would present to a client who purchased a home. Either the cookbook didn’t have a publication date or I didn’t photograph that page.  Regardless, the Cajuns would appreciate the recipes, especially the first one with its canned seafood. In desperate times, Cajuns are known to add dried shrimp to their gumbo.Odom REalty 1Odom REalty 2The cookbook favored most by the homeowner according to its splatters, missing back cover, and the recipe card tucked inside, is Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo (If you want to sing along with Jerry Lee Lewis, click here) published in 1984 by Cooking Cousins out of Harahan, Louisiana. A copy like mine, sans splatters with cover intact, sells for $45 on Amazon. Here are two variations of the same recipe. JCFG Red BeansJCFG Gumbo d'FeveTalk About Good II, Le Livre de Cuisine des Acadiens, is still available on Amazon, too, though it’s much more pricey at $202. I’ll keep my second-hand one to try Wild Duck-Sausage and Oyster Gumbo, and Crawfish Gumbo.Talk About Wild DuckTalk About CrawfishThe Gourmet’s Guide to New Orleans Creole Cookbook (1964) thanks famous restaurateurs the likes of Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Brennan’s, Dunbar’s and the Pontchartrain Hotel for recipe donations.  My favorite part, though, is the acknowledgment page honoring local writers for contributing recipes since the book’s first printing in 1933. Where else would you find Grace King’s recipe for Crab Meat Newberg or Harnett Kane’s Oyster and Sweetbread Pies? A copy like mine is available on Amazon for around $20, but it won’t have the cook’s favorite recipes checked and underlined in pencil. Here’s one she checked:Gourmet OCSGAlso included, though missing a check mark, is the recipe for crab gumbo served at The Shadows-on-the-Teche Plantation in New Iberia submitted by plantation owner Weeks Hall.Gourmet Crab PlantationThe Supplement Section (late recipes, perhaps?) includes a gumbo recipe from former newspaper reporter Merlin “Scoop” Kennedy, who gained fame for his WDSU-TV cooking show and his book Dining in New Orleans, published in 1945. The name of the recipe, I suspect, comes from Irish Bayou, a small bayou and community by the same name within the city limits of New Orleans.  There’s no “irish” cabbage or potatoes in the gumbo – thank goodness.Gourmet Scoop KennedyVoila!, the 1984 Lafayette Centennial Cookbook, celebrates a hundred years of the city, with 246 pages of recipes. At the end of the book, Jake Valentine, a so-called cosmopolitan cook, describes the 80s – “Acadian food being served in restaurants . . .skinny was in, fat was out . . . saturated fats were taboo . . . recipes were modified for microwaves.” Though the back of book has a nice clip-and-mail form to order copies, I doubt if the post office box is valid, but the book’s on Amazon.Voila TassoVoila LentenNo Cajun recipe collection would be complete without one contributor. There are more tall tales, legends and jokes about Boudreaux than I can count. The name’s even gone mainstream with products like Boudreaux’s Butt Cream for diaper rash and as a reindeer in The Cajun Night Before Christmas.  So, it’s seems only fitting to include Mrs. Walter Boudreaux’s (but it’s no joke) seafood gumbo – and it looks delicious (no oysters for me though).Voila BoudreauxThe newest book of the five I bought is the 1992 Rouxdolph’s Gumbo and Soup Book, illustrated by Andrew Smith. Almost every recipe of the 25 gumbo recipes begins with “Make a roux,” which the editor calls “the most important ingredient in making a gumbo.” His tips for making roux are well worth the price of the book. It’s available on Amazon or eBay. In my copy, the first owner dog-eared the recipe for Seafood-Okra Gumbo.Gumbo&Soup2That’s 13 more recipes to total 88 in my quest to collect 300 gumbo recipes to celebrate New Orleans’ 300th birthday.  More estate sales adventures await, and I haven’t told you about my second sale on Friday. That cook owned books from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Saturday’s sale yielded recipes from a pastor’s wife.

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