By John la Fleur II, Louisiana Creole Gourmet & Scholar

Prep: 10-15 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

• I pot of fresh steamed white rice
• Fresh fine herbs
• 3-4 plumes of fennel (save 1 plume for garnish)
• 1 handful/bouquet cilantro
• 1 cup fresh basil
• 1 bouquet curly parsley chopped (save 1-2 branches for garnishing)
• 1/2 tsp. fresh garlic
• 1 chopped head yellow onion
• 1 cup shallots finely chopped
• 1 lb. fresh cut okra
• 2-3 fresh tomatoes (or canned whole tomatoes) sliced lengthwise
• 2 lbs. large shrimp (shelled or not)
• 1/2 lb. julienned tasso (seasoned smoked pork/beef)
• 10 cups chicken broth/stock (or pre-cooked, leftover chicken, de-boned)
• Spices
• salt & cayenne, hint black/pepper (to taste)
• 1 tbsp. dry mustard
• 1/4 tsp. ground clove
• 1 tbsp. sugar (for caramelising)
• 1-3 tbsps. ground sassafras leaves (file’) just in case!

Method:

Now Get Cooking

1. In a medium-large stock pot, saute’ and caramelise sliced tasso with left over chicken in 1 stick melted butter with onions, garlic, & tomato.

2. As onions soften, add spices, then okra, stirring rigorously to bind & blend flavors to create ‘fond’ or stock base. Cook until okra is tender, but not disintegrated.

3. Add fine herbs as onions become translucent.

4. Add remaining chicken broth/stock. Bring to boil for 10-15 minutes

5. Add large shrimp and cook, simmer for 10-15 minutes.

6. Taste to determine whether you need to add another level of more robust spicing.

7. The okra will naturally thicken your roux-less gumbo which creates a lighter, less burdensome meal during summertime and people will comment upon how delicious and yet, light, your meal is-without being too thin, or ‘watery’.*

Presentation/service

• Take a cup of cooked white rice and place inverted cup of rice into the center of the guests’ bowls, which should all be seated upon base plates.
• Serve gumbo stock into the bowls w/o disturbing the ‘island’ of white rice.
• Then, using a perforated spoon, collect bits of tasso, herbs and shrimp and spread evenly into the gumbo, around the ‘island’ of white rice.
• Add garnishments of basil, fennel, parsley to edge of the bowl (yes, into the gumbo’s edge bordering the rim of the plate)
• Sprinkle cayenne pepper and chopped shallots over the ‘island’ of rice and into the gumbo for colour and effect.
• Serve w/ sides of your favourite salads and fresh buttered bread w/ accompaniments of your favourite white wine or fresh lemon/lime-ade! Add a refreshing dessert of homemade pineapple & banana sorbet and let the night speak to a new romance!
• Share a toast to “la bonne vie!” (to the good life!) and enjoy the admiration of all of your dining guests & friends!

*If somehow, you’re gumbo stock is too thin, try adding 1-2 tbsps. of file’ or ground sassafras leaves-the Louisiana Indian solution for thickening, long before the French ever introduced roux!