Gumbo, by a Massachusetts HealthNut

Let’s say you receive a free sample of Penzeys New & Improved Cajun Seasoning. And the Saints are playing in the Superbowl (and being from Mass, you’re certainly not rooting for their opponent!) And Mardi Gras is around the corner. And one more thing – you’ve got to finish up your TrueBlood season two marathon before it disappears from on demand viewing. What do all of these call for? Celebrating by making your first gumbo, of course!

That’s right, I’ve never made, nor even eaten, gumbo. But I do know that the first thing everyone asks when you’re going to make gumbo is, “are you going to make the roux?” Well, as I understand it, the roux is essential. It’s also very bad for you. I’m sure you already guessed that if I was going to make gumbo, I was going to make it healthy. My first choice was to make it for the Superbowl, but since Ben hasn’t decided if he’s watching at home or not (I most likely am), I decided to make it for our evening in catching up on TrueBlood.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to desire a healthier gumbo, because the folks at Eating Well have already come up with a fairly clever solution. Instead of cooking the flour to a intense richness with an equal amount of oil, it’s first toasted to a deep nutty brown in a dry skillet. Then, a fairly small amount of oil is used to saute the vegetables, and the flour is added just before the broth to create the thick base.

Speaking of vegetables, there’s one that I’m fairly sure is essential to a proper gumbo: okra. And, it’s a vegetable I’ve never had before. Southerners claim you either love it or hate it, and that the latter is more likely for non-Southerners. But, seeing that I hardly meet vegetables I don’t like, I made sure to get my hands on some okra for my gumbo.

Now, back to the recipe – are you dying to know how it came out with froux? (that’s a faux roux, by the way.) First, a couple things about this Eating Well recipe I needed to adapt. You might notice that the calorie count on their version is nice and low, but then you might notice that it only calls for twelve ounces of protein, total, for four servings. Maybe that’s ok for some, but I prefer more to make a satisfying dinner and fuel my body with good calories. If you read a little more into it, you might see that the recipe calls for rice- and that’s not the typical mound of rice in the bottom of a bowl of gumbo; it is rice that’s cooked into the stew. I decided to omit that and serve our gumbo over rice instead. Brown rice, of course. Finally, I omitted the seasonings it called for and used my Penzeys instead.

You may take our reviews for what they’re worth – two New Englanders who prefer healthier eating and have never been around real gumbo (I think Panera carried it for a while, but, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count!) I thought it was very good – and I was pleasantly surprised at the distinct flavor given by the stewed celery and okra; for me these set it apart from other spicy tomato-based stews. The Cajun seasoning is comprised of a laundry list of herbs such as paprika, thyme, cayenne, dill, and even cardamom, and these provided what I hope was an authentic Cajun flavor (of course, I can’t be sure!) And Ben’s opinion? He was a lot more than satisfied, loving every bite perhaps more than the next. Good thing the recipe makes four servings, two for tonight, and two to possibly sway my husband to stay home for the Superbowl.

Louisiana-Style Gumbo by a Massachusetts HealthNut
Slightly adapted from Eating Well
Printable Recipe

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (30gm)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, chopped (150gm)
1 large green bell pepper, diced (150gm)
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth*
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen cut okra
2-3 tsp Cajun seasoning blend
1 bay leaf
8 oz medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (10oz total) cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 links Andouille chicken sausage, such as Trader Joe’s, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

In a dry saucepan over medium heat, toast the flour for about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly, until it turns a deep, nutty brown. Remove the toasted flour to a small bowl. Add the oil to the pan and cook the onions, peppers, celery and garlic for about 5-7 minutes, until softened. Sprinkle the flour in, stirring to coat the vegetables.

Add the broth, a little at a time, stirring well to combine. Bring to a simmer and add the tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, okra, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the liquid has been reduced to about 3/4 of the initial volume. Put the lid on to partially cover, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, sausage, and shrimp; cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until chicken and shrimp are cooked through. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve over hot brown rice with hot sauce, if desired.

*Note: this is the amount called for by the original recipe. That recipe also called for cooking a half cup of rice in the stew, so I realized afterward that the recipe probably accounted for extra liquid to cook that rice. So, I later simmered uncovered to let some of it cook off so the gumbo would be thicker.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 362.1
Total Fat: 10.1 g
Cholesterol: 163.6 mg
Sodium: 1,408.8 mg
Total Carbs: 21.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.9 g
Protein: 42.5 g
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6 Responses to “Gumbo, by a Massachusetts HealthNut”

  1. 1

    yumventures — February 7, 2010 @ 6:37 pm Reply

    It was so nice to meet you yesterday too! We will have to get together to work on some gluten free meals =) I love this recipe and will have to try it sometime! And I am OBSESSED with True Blood…the second season is insane! Maybe a southern themed night every week its on? =)

  2. 2

    Elina — February 7, 2010 @ 7:31 pm Reply

    That's pretty gutsy – trying to healthify a gumbo. I actually am not sure if I've ever had it either, so your version would probably be perfect for me.It was nice to meet you in person yesterday, Cara. Let's get together again soon. :)

  3. 3

    Cara — February 7, 2010 @ 8:14 pm Reply

    Sophie, that would be fun, I've always wanted to do a "series" with another blogger! We could even challenge ourselves to make all our southern fare gluten free and healthy :)And to both of you, it would be so much fun to try to plan more foodie events and hang out!

  4. 4

    Carolyn — February 17, 2010 @ 7:52 pm Reply

    I made this for my husband and I last night and we both loved it! Very good!I recently discovered this blog from thenest.com. I've tried a few of your recipes and LOVED them all! Thanks for sharing them!

  5. 5

    Pumpky112 — August 9, 2010 @ 1:25 am Reply

    Sooooo…. I'm from the South. This is DELICIOUS!! Nice Job! Not only did my husband love it… but it was mild enough for my 17 month old! (who also gobbled it down!) This was wonderful, thank you!

  6. Pingback: Tasty Eats at Home » Gluten-Free Mardi Gras Round-Up

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