Monday, December 30, 2013

A Very Vegan Gluten-Free Christmas: Okra Gumbo

I call this the faux-hawk plate
With our Heart of Palm "Crab" Cakes already delighting our bellies, we needed a proper dinner chock-ful of nostalgia to round out our Christmas Eve feast. For me, there is one dish that epitomizes home cooking with the power to send you back to your childhood and cure all of your woes- my grandmother's okra gumbo.

Maw Maw's okra gumbo transcends all other gumbos (and all other cooking from anyone's grandmother for that matter). It was more of a stew of greatness than a gumbo. The extremely thick okra base was perfect for anything from putting on top of rice, to making a sandwich in a buttery roll, to even dipping french fries in. Really, the only thing you should probably avoid doing is putting it on ice cream, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was also amazing (Now if you'll excuse me, I'm busy thinking about frying ice cream and smothering it in okra gumbo...). While I don't have her actual recipe, my mom and I have made a few gumbos in our day, and we were going to try our best to reach those seemingly unobtainable cajun heights.

Okra Gumbo
Adapted from motherly and sonly wisdom
Servings: 8-10
Time: Approximately 3-4 hours
Chop, chop, chop!

6 tbsp vegetable oil
6-8 tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 1/2 yellow onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 lb bags of frozen okra
6 cups water
3 Not Chick'n bouillon cubes
Cajun seasoning to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste
Extra-long grain rice

It's always important to remember to get lots of shadows in your foodie pics.

  1. Make your roux. Mix the flour and oil over medium heat, stirring frequently until it starts to smell nutty and becomes caramel colored. (The preferable holiday procedure is to have your mom who has hundreds of rouxs worth of experience make it while you dice the produce.)
  2. Coat the onions, bell peppers and garlic in the roux. Let cook over medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes until the onions become translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  3. Transfer to a large pot. Add the water and bring it to a boil. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom and burning.
  4. Stir in the bouillon cubes and okra (the more you put, the thicker the final product will be) and return to a boil.
  5. Lower the temp to a healthy simmer and let cook for at least two hours (you want the okra to start breaking down a little).
  6. Season with cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper while cooking (and tabasco once in a bowl).
  7. Serve with extra-long grain rice.
  8. Relive awesome childhood food moments from grandmother's house.
Proper gumbo plating- smothered
We managed to come surprisingly close to the taste and joy of Maw Maw's famous okra gumbo. The three bags of okra gave it a great thickness and heartiness, but four probably would have been the proper number for true gumbo magic. Seconds were not an option for this gumbo, rather they were a demand of our stomaches, which were now suffering from a condition that can only be explained as "gumbo-lust". In the true gumbo spirit, it was even better the next day after it had more time to thicken up and the flavors had more time to come together. For more tasty fun with your gumbo, sprinkle in some gluten-free panko crumbs for a little crunch.

Now I have to admit that we partially cheated on the gluten-freeness here (hey, Christmas is a time of forgiveness). We added some Field Roast Italian"sausage" to up the protein content (may the gluten-free gods have mercy on our souls). This proved to be the weakest part of the gumbo, though, so it can easily be skipped for the full gluten-free experience.

Stay tuned for the most important part of any proper Christmas celebration- the desserts!

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