Fat Tuesday ~ Gumbo-Style!

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Mardi Gras (Carnevale in Italian) is coming to a close on Feb 21 – “Fat Tuesday,” so it is time to be as decadent as you want before Lent kicks in on Wednesday, the 22nd.  With my “Moon Pie” post last week, my “Spicy Drumstick Gumbo” this week is a great way to round up Mardi Gras ~ why not lead off with a dessert, Carnevale is a time of decadence!

A couple of things about gumbo:

Some people insist that gumbo MUST have crab in it—if you are one of those people, knock yourself out and add a 1/2 pound of lump crab meat to my recipe. But, the only thing that gumbo must have in it is OKRA. “Gumbo” is the African word for “okra,” and the recipe’s origin in the USA comes from the Slave South. [To be slightly more accurate, the word for “okra” in many African dialects is “ki-ngumbo” or “ki-ngombo,” hence the recipe’s name “gumbo.” Of course, others believe the word “gumbo” stems from the Choctaw Indian word “Kombo”—the word for “filé,” ground sassafras leaves.] Obivously, if you don’t live in the South it will be near impossible to find fresh okra. Frozen may be substituted, if you can find that in your local freezer case. If neither is available, well …  I won’t tell anyone if you make this “okra” stew without it. It will be our secret!

Filé, like crab, is an ingredient that some people insist must be in gumbo; however, there are just as many people who never put filé in their gumbo. Technically, “Cajun” gumbo uses a roux as the thickener and “Creole” gumbo uses filé to thicken theirs, so my gumbo is a combination of Creole and Cajun. I like the flavor of filé, so I use it in mine. You may “opt in” or “opt out” when it comes to filé. I cannot begin to describe its uniquely delicious flavor.

I hope you’ll enjoy this classic Mardi Gras food and ~ “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” [“Let the good times roll!]

Buon Appetito~


Spicy Drumstick Gumbo

8 cups chicken stock, low-sodium if using canned (homemade preferred)

8 chicken drumsticks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons Kosher or Sea salt, divided

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup flour

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

4 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided

8 ounces Andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (Kielbasa sausage may be substituted)

1 large yellow onion, minced

3 bunches scallions, minced halfway up through the green tops

1 large green bell pepper, cored, deseeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 1/2 cups sliced okra, 1/2-inch-thick slices

2 stalks celery, cut lengthwise in half, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (or 2 cups freshly diced tomatoes)

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, more or less to taste

1/2 pound large shrimp (26 to 30 count), peeled, deveined, washed and cut crosswise in half

1 tablespoon filé (optional)

Rice for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat the stock in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Place the chicken, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne pepper into a re-sealable plastic bag. Close the bag and shake the bag until the chicken is well coated. Remove drumsticks from bag and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes (turning once after 25 minutes) until the skin is nicely browned and crispy. Remove baking sheet from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 6 tablespoons butter over low heat. When the foam subsides, add flour and make a roux by cooking and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. As the color starts to turn light brown, stir in garlic, thyme, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Continue stirring the roux until it turns the color of peanut butter. Thin by slowly whisking in 2 cups of the warmed stock. It will be the consistency of thick gravy. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the sausage and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the onion, scallions, bell pepper, okra and celery, stirring and cooking for 4 to 6 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the roux mixture to the vegetables, stirring to combine. Stir in the remaining 6 cups stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Tabasco and cook an additional 15 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in well the filé and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Taste for seasoning, adjusting salt, black pepper and Tabasco.

Serve in large soup bowls over rice, placing a spicy drumstick, meat down, into each serving bowl.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.