Savor the South–Gumbo


Gumbo by Dale Curry, UNC Press 2015, $18.00 hardback, 128 pages

New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin. 

–Mark Twain

Another in the endless supply of mic drops from Mark Twain. And, as usual, he’s right. Gumbo is a lovely bit of sin and one that can be varied to suit your predilections and pantry.

Pungent, dark, steamy and good–gumbo is a symbol of the city and its hospitality. It must be made in large quantities and its flavor develops as it cooks–or even as it’s re-heated.

In this book, long-time New Orleanian, Dale Curry lets you in on the secrets of a good gumbo, provides recipes for seafood, meat, and even a traditional vegetable version. In fact, she writes, “I present all the gumbos that I know how to cook.” There are more than a dozen–some from chefs and all delicious.

And as a hospitable extra,Curry also throws in some more New Orleans flavors, including Calas, Shrimp Remoulade, Dirty Rice, and for Monday wash days–Red Beans and Rice.

It seems, from Curry’s remembrances, that a large part of a good gumbo from repetition and respect for tradition. Electric streetcars, Mardi Gras crews, and grandma’s gumbo recipes all seem to get better with time and use. But there are a few cook’s secrets that she shares. Put the file in after the gumbo is cooked, brown the meats before they go in, and always season well with a base of onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. The initial recipes, for Roux, Stocks, Rice, and spice mix will set up whatever gumbo you choose to make.

You wouldn’t think that Gumbo z’Herbes, a traditional Lenten, vegetable gumbo could stand up to Cajun Hen, Shrimp and Okra, or Creole Seafood Gumbo, but it does. And with all those greens (traditionally twelve to represent the twelve apostles) you can feel a little less sinful when you dig in. It takes an earthy flavor from smoked ham, and a rich finish from oysters and their liquor.

If you’re not ready for a big pot, try some of Curry’s other dishes that fit easily into a weekday dinner hour. Her Dirty Rice is not some leftover mish-mash, but a hearty and all-American pilaf flavored with chicken livers, ground beef, and vegetables.

In fact, this book is a bit like a gumbo pot–full of savory bits that you’ll return to over and over again.






About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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