Gumbo on the Cheap


It’s a cold, dank winter day and this revolutionary is strapped for cash. Most of us are. It’s Tuesday, though, and we’re feeding many at our weekly Tune-in-Tuesday Potluck.

I go to the market with $10.

I walk home with a can of crabmeat, a can of clams in clam juice, 2 yellow onions, 1 bunch of celery, 3 ears of corn, and I could even afford some more chili powder for the rack. Spices are scant at the headquarters right now.

I’ve got olive oil, flour, okra, serrano peppers, and carrots already in the kitchen.

I put a gallon of water in the pot. I realize it will be too much. I scoop a big glass of water out and chug it. Gotta stay hydrated. I bring it to a boil.

I cut both onions, the entire bunch of celery, two serrano peppers, and two carrots into thin slices and toss them in the boiling water. This is going to be casual gumbo, no need to rush on a winter day like today. I go ahead and shake some cajun seasoning into the boil.

I cut the corn off the cobs and slice the okra thin, and dice it again.

I feed the cat. I check the email. Some friends arrive and we say some brilliant things, and some silly things.

I heat up the skillet with oil of olive and toss in the corn and okra. I mix this around, tossing in chili powder and hoping for a grilly flavor from the frying. I shake nutmeg in the boiling broth along with some more seasoning salt. When the corn and okra look cooked I toss them in the broth. I open the crab and the clams and drop them into the pot, juice included. The concoction is filling the air with its spice, the soup is coming alive. Roux is the final step.

I keep the skillet hot but turn the heat below medium, I add some liberal splashes of olive oil. I shake in some flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. The color is a dijon yellow, mostly from the olive oil. It looks too loose, I add a few more clumps of flour and mush and stir them in. The consistency looks perfect, like mixing clay paints. The edges of the roux bubble. I keep stirring, the yellow turns to an earth tone desert brown. This is a crucial time. The roux is beautiful. How long will I let it wait? How dark do I want the roux today? There it is.

I dump the roux in the stew and I do not know it is Gumbo until the third bite, when I remembered my father’s gumbo and the quintessential taste of a soup arrangement that plays the proud theme, “Gumbo.”

“This soup is amazing, I love spicy-ness,” said Roxanne.
Lana hadn’t tried it yet, “Mmm, like Mexican spicy or like Asian spicy?”
Virginia paused her eating, “Cajun spicy.”

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