Hey, We Saw That First

Mise en place

There was an old commercial aired on local channels in the Lowcountry back in the 1970’s. At one point, one of the actors stopped and said, “Hey, we saw that first!” as he claimed all right, title, and interest in the hocked product.

I feel the same way about gumbo

Yes, gumbo

That national dish of New Orleans, be it Creole, file, z’herbes, whate’z’s

South Carolina beat them to the pot

Literally

We saw that first

Old cookbooks here call gumbo a mix of orka and tomatoes stewed and served over rice

It’s got Gullah roots

The word gumbo comes from an African word for okra

Okra is still one of our favorite foods in South Carolina. Having come over from Africa with the slaves brought to these shores against their will to grow rice, okra has been paired with South America’s tomatoes, Europe’s herbs, and local swimps and oysters for over three hundred years.

All about that rice

Carolina Gold

We had been serving okra with tomatoes and rice since well before Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville named that historic Indian portage near the Bayou St. John for a French duke in 1718

That all being said, I love a good old New Orleans style gumbo, but, hey, we saw that first

I roux the day, which certainly is not from round these parts

I use the andouille sausage, which certainly is not from round these parts

I love a gumbo

I’ve been known to serve this to company. That’s how much I love gumbo

I also have a set of gumbo spoons. Wide bowls to scoop up all the goodness. Not cream soup spoons. Not bouillon spoons. Not place spoons. Full on gumbo spoons

I recommend them highly

In your silver pattern

And, yes, you need a silver pattern

Gumbo spoons work for all manner of soups and stews but work best for, you got it, gumbo

Here’s my version of Gumbo cobbled together from old South Carolina cookbooks, Emeril (BAM!) Lagasse’s (BAM!) cooking show on the Food Network, and Elizabeth’s on 37th in Savannah, Georgia, a city I love, with deep rice culture roots, too.

Remember to serve with steam producing white rice, some good bread, and the hot sauce of your choice.

Sorry to all my pals in the Big Easy, but, hey, we saw that first.

Gumbo

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 c. all purpose flour

1 green bell pepper, chopped – when I say chopped I mean quarter inch style diced – that’s one of those cook’s notes of which I hear

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh black pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne red pepper

1 lb okra, sliced

4 c. chicken borth

1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes

4 c. water

2 bay leaves

3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. oregano

1 grocery store rotisserie chicken, all meat picked off the bones, skin discarded, and torn into bite sized pieces. We all know that I eat the skin as I pick the meat off the bones. Or, 5 chicken thighs baked for 45 minutes, cooled, and then skin discarded, meat torn into bite sized pieces. The grocery store yard bird is so easy

1 lb. andouille sausage – cut into bite sized rounds

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled (optional)

1 pt. oysters (optional)

Juice of a lemon

1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped

That good cooked white rice – steaming hot

Parsley – if you must – for garnish

In a large pan, make a roux of the flour and oil by whisking slowly over medium heat. Cook until almost the color of dark peanut butter, dark brown sugar, milk chocolate. Add the green pepper, celery, onion, salt and both peppers. Cook until vegetables are soft – about 10 minutes. Add the roux, veggie mix to a large pot along with okra, tomatoes, water, broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, chicken, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Then, cut back heat to a low simmer and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. If using seafood, add the shrimp 5-7 minutes before serving. Add the oysters and their liquor right before serving. To finish, add the lemon juice and basil. Makes it sing. Serve with that steaming white rice and hot sauce on the side. I usually ladle the gumbo into the soup bowl, then add the rice. My bride does just the opposite. Then, sprinkle on a little chopped parsley. If you must.

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