Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Traditional Firehouse Gumbo

First the story, then the recipe.

One day a guy from another station swung in to ours, and he cooked that day. He made what he called "Gumbo". It was pretty good, but not like a traditional gumbo from Louisiana. Basically, it was smoked sausage with onions and black-eyed peas in rice.

A few shifts later, we were discussing what to cook that day. We decided we would try to make the "gumbo" again, but in a more traditional manner. So, we "improved" it a bit. The next shift, we decided to make it again, but to add chicken to it. One of the guys asked if we were going to add shrimp. We said no, not this time. We changed the recipe just a little that time too.

So, the next shift came and we were discussing what to have that day. Somebody (OK, it might have been me) suggested gumbo. Sure, they said. So we made it again, tweaking the recipe once more. One of the guys asked about shrimp again. We said we don't make "that kind" of gumbo. He was a little disappointed, but he ate and enjoyed anyway. This time though, when it was through cooking, we put the rice in it and called it "Jambalaya".

Folks, we had this "gumbo" for about a month. Some days we put the rice in it and called it jambalaya. Some days we cooked the rice separate and called it gumbo. Some times we called it "Cajun Stew". It was always the same, after the first three times or so, but we called it different names. We never put shrimp in it, just to mess with that one guy.

Finally, on Sunday, we were discussing what to have to eat. The first suggestion was gumbo. Shrimp Boy almost had a conniption fit. He wasn't eating anymore gumbo, or jambalaya, or Cajun stew, or anything else. He was going to have roast on Sunday. One other fireman, who was only there that day, agreed with him.

The lines were drawn.

When we went to the store, we got roast and potatoes and gumbo ingredients. Only this time we got shrimp. Lots of shrimp.

Shrimp Boy made his roast. We made our gumbo.

We all sat down to dinner together. As we ate, those of us eating gumbo would take a bite and say "Dang it! I got another shrimp." Then another would chime in with "They're everywhere!"
Then another with "I can't get a bite without shrimp. They're so big!"

It was pretty funny when he finally said "Will you shut up about the shrimp?"

He did admit later that he got a bowl of gumbo that afternoon.

I believe it was that night when one of the wives came up to visit. She just happened to have grown up in Louisiana, in Cajun country. Talk turned to the gumbo. She, having grown up eating gumbo asked how we made it. We told her and she said "Well, that's not a traditional gumbo."

Her husband, who happened to be one of the main players in the gumbo story said "We've been eating it every shift for a month, it's a traditional gumbo now!"

It's actually pretty quick and easy to make:

Saute in olive oil:

1 medium onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
1 clove garlic chopped and crushed


1 pound cubed chicken breast
1 pound smoked sausage chopped/cubed
1 pound shrimp or craw fish tails peeled
continue cooking until meat is done (may add 1/2 cup water while cooking)

4 cans (15 oz) black-eyed peas
3 cans cut okra and tomatoes
2 cans chicken broth
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chillies

Simmer for "A while", maybe 30 minutes.

Serve over rice.
Season to taste with salt, and Cajun spice. I like Tony Chachere's.

Be aware this will feed 5-8 firemen. So, maybe 10 regular eaters.

Use a B-I-G pot to cook in and enjoy!

Mr Fixit

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