Gumbo is one of those recipes with endless variations. But to make a respectable gumbo, you absolutely must use the following:
1. Roux (flour browned in oil or butter)
3. File (powdered sassafras leaves)
4. Holy Trinity (sauteed celery, onions and bell peppers)
The best gumbo also contains shrimp and Andouille sausage, but this vegan variant isn’t bad. I used frozen and canned ingredients, but as always, fresh is better if you have time to mess with it. Don’t let the ingredients list scare you off; it looks long, but a lot of it is stuff you have on hand.
1 1/2 c. frozen celery, onion and pepper mix
1 c. tricolor pepper mix
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cube veggie bouillon
1 tsp. file
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Pepper (OK to substitute coarse black pepper)
Cayenne to taste
2 tsp. salt OR 1 tsp. salt + 1 tsp. smoked salt
Pinch of ground chipotle
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag frozen cut okra
1 1/2 c. frozen zucchini (optional)
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 bay leaves
Saute the first two ingredients in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until onions are clear.
While vegetables cook, put about two tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan and add enough flour to make a dryish paste. Heat, stirring frequently, until browned. This is your roux. It is absolutely essential to a decent gumbo.
Dump tomatoes into Crock-Pot. Whisk in the roux. Add two cans of water, whisking between each addition. Whisk in file, paprika, thyme, pepper, cayenne, salt and chipotle. (Chipotle isn’t traditional, but it adds a smoky note you really need if you aren’t using sausage.)
Sitr in remaining ingredients except bay leaves. Add bay leaves last, turn Crock-Pot to high and ignore for four hours (or turn Crock-Pot on low and cook overnight or while you’re at work). If your finished gumbo seems too thin, add a little more roux.
Remove bay leaves and serve over rice or couscous.