January Gumbo – Crockpot

Taking a break from my medical reminiscences, more recipes. Last Saturday, I made a gumbo with chicken, sausage and shrimp in my crockpot, which cooked while I skied. That’s one of the advantages of a crockpot for the way I live. I can spend some time on the food processing early in the day, turn on the pot, and have dinner ready after several hours away skiing or cycling.

This recipe is supposed to serve 6-8, served with hot rice. I would say it’s closer to dinner for 6. It’s a real gumbo with okra, which will require strategic shopping. It was an experiment and I was pleased with it. It has a nice blend of flavours. There is a little pepper, more for flavour than heat. The sausage adds a nice smoky flavour without making the dish too greasy or fatty. The okra has a neutral flavour, a nice texture and mainly adds starches which makes for a sticky dish, which sticks to the rice and makes a nice hot comfort dish on cold day.
The recipe calls for 2 cups of frozen cut okra. Frozen is fine because it’s hard to find fresh okra on the Prairies. I found frozen whole okra which worked after processing. I didn’t try to cut the frozen okra, which would be hard on the knife and the fingers. I put the okra in tepid water for a couple minutes which lets the frost out. It’s still best to keep the okra from getting too soft because it also gets slippery.
The preparation involves slicing or chopping chicken thighs, sausage, and vegetables including the okra if it has to be cut.
The meat requirements and preparation: (1) 400-500 grams (about a pound) of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or the equivalent of whole thighs, skinned and deboned, cut into bite sized pieces, and (2) 250 grams (half a pound) of smoked sausage cut into thin slices. Smoked sausage is important. I bought a garlic coil and added liquid smoke. I think smoked ham would work too.
The raw vegetables are: a cup of chopped onion (which is a small onion chopped), half a cup of chopped green bell pepper (half a pepper is about right), 3 cloves of garlic, minced. At this stage 3 or 4 fresh tomatoes can be diced if you don’t want to use canned diced tomatoes.
The next main step is making a roux in a saucepan or skillet. Three teaspoons of vegetable oil (or melted butter) mixed thoroughly with three teaspoons of flour. This needs to be cooked for 15 to 20 minutes, and stirred constantly. It needs to be medium hot for the first few minutes, and the heat should be turned down after that. It’s ready when the mixture looks reddish brown.
The roux, the meats, the okra, peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes go into the crockpot. If you are using canned tomatoes, a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes will be enough. This is the stage for the spices. A quarter teaspoon of cayenne (ground) and a quarter to a half teaspoon of ground black pepper. I used a couple of teaspoons of liquid smoke seasoning at this stage. That’s optional, but I recommend it if the sausage is not smoked. If might still use half a teaspoon or a teaspoon, even if I had good smoked sausage.
That’s it except for shrimp, which are optional and the rice. The cooking time for the main mixture is 7 or 8 hours. If adding shrimp, used cleaned, cooked frozen shrimp. A cup is enough. The shrimp can be added about 20 minutes to a half hour before the end – not longer or the shrimp will get overcooked.
I used white long grained rice, which is cooked separately. (I have tried recipes for paella and jambalaya which call for the rice to go into the crockpot early in the cooking but the rice always comes out still crunchy or entirely glutinous). White rice needs to simmer about 15 minutes after the water boils. When I was ready for dinner, I threw the shrimp in the gumbo, measured my rice and water, brought the rice and water to a boil, turned it down to simmer and everything was ready.


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