Fall in Louisiana is a brief transition separating our warm summers and relatively mild winters. It would be better to call this time of year gumbo season in Louisiana. Gumbo, Louisiana’s best known indigenous dish, is a hearty, stew-like soup with:
- a mandatory thickening agent called a roux, a skillet-browned equal-parts mix of oil and flour
- sautéed onions, bell peppers and celery, referred to as the trinity in Creole and Cajun cuisine; and
- optional thickeners such as filé (sassafras leaves ground into a powder) and diced okra, called gombo in some west African cultures—hence the dish’s name.
Gumbo is a meal perfect for a cooler fall or winter day, and you can make it no matter where you live as ingredients for the roux and the trinity are readily available.
There are no set rules as far as a primary meat. Louisiana gumbos are built around shellfish (but fin fish works too). Or chicken and pork sausage. Or what’s left over from holiday turkeys and hams. Or wilder meats such as duck, deer and rabbit. In short, any protein in your own backyard is fair game (pun intended).
There are Louisiana gumbo recipes galore online. To get you started quickly, here’s a link to a Creole Filé Gumbo, one of many authentic Cajun and Creole recipes found at our Louisiana Culinary Trails website. You may also want to filter your Web search using your meat of choice.
And I encourage you to improvise based on what’s readily available in your area and what pleases your palate. For example, the Louisiana native in me who’s been cooking gumbos for decades would take the linked recipe above and add a pound of chopped okra, my thickener of choice.
You can be a gumbo pro with a little practice, but to truly hone your craft, you need to visit Louisiana and experience a variety of Creole and Cajun gumbos where they were born and still thrive. To get started, visit Louisiana Culinary Trails and LouisianaTravel.com.