Friday, February 19, 2016

The 'Maine' Truth Behind Gumbo's.

"Jambalaya, crawfish pie, file gumbo. 'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma chere amie o ....." Boy, I hope others remember that song! I am not old enough to remember this Hank Williams tune when it first came out, but I am blessed with reel-to-reel recordings my grandparents made of the country radio stations back in the 50s with this song being sung. I still listen to them today, even though they are now recorded on cd's. But I am wondering off topic.

 There are two basic types of Gumbo, Cajun(country food) and Creole(city food) styles. Many of the Creoles were French(as the Cajuns)but their background and migration saga was from an entirely different part of the Western Hemisphere, but equally as disruptive, cruel, abusive and immoral. As it pertains to their style of cooking, with Gumbo in particular, okra is frequently added. It has also been stated that they used a butter/flour roux as a base for this dish. It was cooked long enough to change color or flavor,  creating a dark-colored thickening agent. Creole Gumbo is also made with a tomato product in order to help thicken this dish, while Cajun Gumbo uses strictly roux.

   Cajun style Gumbo, on the other hand, is generally thickened with a roux made of oil and flour that has been whisked until it is smooth, but not browned, as emphatically believed by many food historians and chefs.

   I completely disagree with both of these roux adherences however. It is totally wrong and makes no logical sense! The French were, and have been, known for cooking with butter for centuries before the introduction of Acadians in Canada and Maine, and ultimately Louisiana. They never, EVER used oil in dishes to thicken, that was an Italian introduction. Much the same as tomatoes in Creole but not Cajun Gumbo.
The portrait of some dispersed Acadians, courtesy of

The Cajun people, mostly in the Southwestern portion of Louisiana, use some type of fowl, as well as sausage and fish frequently. But what they do NOT use is tomatoes, as mentioned. As for file powder? I am not even going to touch that one. Half the experts assert that these ground sassafras leaves are a mainstay in Cajun style Gumbo, while the other half aver Creole Gumbo is not the same without it.

My favorite, well known, age old expression of simply telling the difference between the Cajuns and Creoles is that the Creoles are said to be able to feed 1 family with 3 chickens, while the Cajuns can feed 3 families with 1 chicken. Right away, I knew they were my ancestors.


It began with the Port Royal settlements in upper Maine and lower French Canada during the early 17th century. This area is known as Acadia. My direct ancestor(Pierre Thibodeau)was of the St. John, Canadian French, who were part of this migration to be mentioned.

In order to prevent this post from becoming a history lecture, by the first decade of the 18th century, the French Acadians began to stand up for their moral disciplines against the British, and because of that, they were slowly being pushed back into the wilderness, attacked by the Native Americans and deported to dozens of other colonies in Eastern America.

Then the Grand Derangement(Great Upheaval)began in ernest in the mid-1700s, with a total of more than 13000 being uprooted and thousands of their homes being destroyed.

By 1765, a couple of groups of these French settlers found themselves in Louisiana, under Spanish control at the time, and thus began the introduction of French food to the area.

As for the name Cajun? You can listen to all these so-called linguistic experts give you a litany of meanings, some so outlandish that they are foolish. The correct meaning? Acadian! The words Cajun and Acadian are simply the same word, just skewed somewhat over the generations. A perfect example of this is another term, Injuns. Indians and Injuns are the same word, with the same exact meaning, but similarly skewed.

So to confuse you even more, I have Yanked Gumbo to offer what I believe to be the best of two French dishes. I have taken the liberty of using the so-called Creole roux and cooking it until it darkens, giving it a great nutty characteristic, as my French ancestors did.

I have also taken the Creole tomatoes and added them here. Not for their thickening power, because the roux does that very well, but simply for the flavor.


Cajun Turkey and Sausage Gumbo(Quick or Classic)


Here are two ways of making this "Loosiana" classic. Which ever way you prepare it, always use the Cajun Holy Trinity, which is peppers, onions and celery. This is a true 'fill 'er up' kind of meal, even going so far as using a fork. Here is the quickest method of the two.

2(4-ounce)links hot or sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup minced onion
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and minced
1 rib celery, sliced thin
2 teaspoons minced garlic in oil
2 cups beef broth
1(15-ounce)can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1(6-ounce)can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups brown rice
1 1/2 cups cooked yams or sweet potatoes, diced

Remove casings from sausage and crumble into a large saucepan. Add onion, green pepper, celery and garlic, Stir to combine and cook over medium high heat until meat is cooked thoroughly and celery is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Drain fat and add broth, tomatoes with juice, turkey, tomato paste and seasoning. Stir well, add yams, reduce heat to low, place cover slightly askew and simmer for at least 10 minutes, or the length of time you are cooking the rice.
Cook rice according to package directions.

To serve, mound a cup of rice in the middle of each of 4 serving bowls and surround with gumbo. Serve immediately.

Or it you want a classic Cajun style gumbo, place 4 tablespoons butter or margarine in a saucepan. Melt over medium high heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons flour until smooth. Continue cooking and almost constantly stirring for about 6-8 minutes, or until the roux is the color of a copper penny. Immediately add beef broth, whisking until smooth. Add tomatoes, turkey, yams and seasonings. When you have cooked the sausage with the remainder of the vegetables in a separate skillet, per instructions above, transfer to the tomato mixture, stir well and bring up to temperature before serving.


creolouisianian said...

You have a great point my friend, and a substantive one. I never really thought about the true French as using butter in place of oil, but it make total sense. You hit it right on the money chef.

Anonymous said...

Did you mean brown rice chef?

The Yankee Chef said...

Good eye buddy. I wrote wild rice instead of brown rice. Just changed it. Thank you.