Spicy voodoo gumbo

Darlings! The temperature has been dropping to the 30's the last few days in Southern Florida and as you know, La Diva LOVES any excuse to make comfort food. While these crisp days are brief, La Diva likes to seize the opportunity to cook warming winter meals and decided it was high time I made a spicy voodoo gumbo. What does gumbo have to do with voodoo? Besides having roots in West Africa, not much! But, as you know, La Diva likes words that tickle your tongue and writing about the unique qualities and ethnic diversity of her beloved Miami!

A botanica in Little Haiti (click HERE to learn more about this colorful neighborhood!)

Did you know that Miami has it's own little enclave of voodoo priests and followers? With voodoo spreading from West Africa to Haiti back in the 16th century, it was only natural that the religion followed it's Haitian immigrants to Miami. Around certain neighborhoods, parking lots and the intracoastal shoreline, an observant person can see the remnants of voodoo offerings including candles, chicken blood and feathers and bones. Indeed, "Little Haiti" boasts a number of botanicas where one can buy amulets, trinkets, candles, statues and other religious and spiritual items.

Now that I've got you in a spicy voodoo mood, mes chéris, are you ready to make de gumbo? Back in the 80's La Diva had a friend that managed Cajun New Orlean's chef Paul Prudhomme's restaurant in New York, K Paul. He scored for me an autographed copy of the chef's classic cookbook: Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen.

This tome has served me well but it had been years since I made any dish from it as EVERY recipe started out with lard and a stick of butter. Darlings, these were the days when La Diva was silly enough to think you could cut calories and make a cheesecake out of fat-free cream cheese! I don't do that anymore but I DO lighten things up when and where I can without sacrificing flavor or texture.

Here is the recipe in it's original form but I made some changes to lighten it up and make it easier to prepare.

  1. I used olive oil instead of the pork lard
  2. I did not have the time nor inclination to make seafood stock so I used chicken stock instead.
  3. Make sure you use the correct amount of okra. La Diva was short by 2 cups (the fresh okra was expensive!) but omitting left the broth a bit thinner than normal.
  4. It's important to cut the okra as suggested so it breaks down and thickens the gumbo.
  5. I found andouille sausage at the grocery but you could lighten it up even more with the lower fat smoked turkey sausage.
  6. I used half of the butter the recipe called for and it came out just fine.
  7. Follow exactly the measurements for the seasonings. Chef Paul has been doing this a LONG time and you will get the flavor correct and be delighted with the result if you stick to the recipe for seasoning and process.

Chef Paul Prudhomme's Shrimp, Okra and Andouille Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Makes 9 main dish or 18 appetizer servings

1/3 cup pork lard (preferred, chicken fat or vegetable oil)
2 1/2 pounds okra, quartered lengthwise and sliced (8 1/2 cups)
1/ 1/2 t white pepper
1 1/2 t ground cayenne pepper
1 t black pepper
2 c finely chopped onions
10 cups seafood stock
2 c peeled and chopped tomatoes
2 t salt
1 t minced garlic
3/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t dried thyme leaves
1/4 lb. (one stick) unsalted butter
1 lb. andouille smoked sausage or any other good pure smoked pork sausage such as Polish keilbasa, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 lb. peeled medium shrimp
1/2 c finely chopped green onions
2 1/4 c hot cooked rice

In a 5 1/2 quart saucepan or large Dutch oven (preferably cast iron), melt fat over high heat until it begins to smoke, about three minutes. Add 6 cups of the okra. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 teaspoon of the white pepper, 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper and the black pepper, stir well. Continue cooking until well browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in onions; cook for 5 minutes, stirring fairly often and scraping the pan bottom as needed. Add 1 cup of stock, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom well. Stir in the tomatoes and cook about 8 minutes, stirring and scraping frequently. Add another 2 cups of stock; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and the salt, garlic, onion powder and thyme. Add the butter and continue cooking over high heat, stirring until butter is melted and scraping the bottom of the pan well.

Add the remaining 7 cups of stock, stirring well. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the andouille and return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups okra; simmer 10 minutes. Then add the shrimp and green onions. Return gumbo to a boil, then remove from heat. Skim any oil from the surface and serve immediately.

To serve, place a mounded 1/4 cup rice in center of each srving bowl; spoon 1 1/2 cups gumbo around the rice. Serve half that amount for an appetizer.

(click away darlings!)

Result: DAMN GOOD GUMBO, yah! The gumbo was very spicy but for La Diva, just perfect, especially for a cold winter's night. DJ Nevah L8 loved the heartiness and peppery flavors of the stew. The addition of the extra okra at the end is nice and lends a fresh texture to the dish. The extra half stick of butter was not missed nor the heaviness of using lard. There was no oil to skim off of La Diva's version! The recipe makes a fair amount of this nourishing stew, so if it's just for two, freeze some or be generous and share with a neighbor, they will love you for it. Au revoir mes chéris!

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