This might be the most random intervention of fate, I’ve thus far experienced with this project. I occasionally write articles for Edible East Bay a food magazine in Northern California. My editor sent me a cryptic message, knowing I was going to be in Louisiana in a weeks time. The message said that a woman named Jeanette was looking for tree collards starters, only available in CA — would I be interested in tracking some down and bringing them to her.
When I phoned Jeanette, my ears were greeted with the sweetest, softest voice. She assured me that it would ok if I couldn’t find the collards. And when I broached the subject of this project she said she was willing to host me and share her family’s gumbo recipe. Ten days later, with my friend Mariah Sinclaire in tow, I arrived in Franklin, Louisiana about 2 hours west of New Orleans. Sparsely populated, dotted with cane fields and screaming of beautiful back country.
Franklin and the Polidore Family were everything I was hoping to see and experience.
From the moment we walked in the door, 20 month old Zaré was the center of the universe. A cuter child has never existed. I’m sure of it.
I am still in love with her to this moment. Zaré’s mom, is 25 year old Jessica de Fils who is the daughter of Jeanette Polidore. Both women love to cook and I can see that Zaré and her sister Shay have a long delicious life ahead of them.
“Okra, shrimp, chicken gumbo. We don’t do all that weird chicken feet crap. No alligator here.” – Jessica
Gumbo is very eclectic. It’s a roux based stew and is a simple collection of meats and vegetables that you have readily available. The seasonings are almost usually similar though never exact. The flavors are similar, though never exact. The style can range from red gravy gumbo to white gravy gumbo. From Creole to Cajun.
“Certain families are very secretive. My aunt makes crawfish fettucine that takes first place in the state of Louisiana but she WILL NOT share that recipe with anyone. Maybe when she gets older.” - Jessica
Jeanette comes from a long line of strong women with colorful histories. She has 13 brothers and sisters and it’s rumored her grandfather was struck down by Bonnie and Clyde, in Burwick, LA. Her french lineage keeps her current family stewed in delicious francophile Creole tendencies in the kitchen. It’s a beautiful melding of cultures.
“Creole food is nothing without filé (pronounced Feel-Lay).” – Jeanette
“These sausages are too big. They need to be smaller for my babies.” – Jessica
“They are the perfect size. Why you cutting them?” – Jeanette
“We always argue over the size of the sausage. Always.” - Jessica
And one more thing before we dive into the recipe. The correct way to pronounce the ever present seasoning found all over Louisiana, Tony Chachere is like this …
De Fils Gumbo
Roux: 1 C. Flour and 3/4 C. Cooking Oil – Cook over medium heat into a thick, creamy gravy-consistency. Keep at the Roux until you have a milk chocolate color. Don’t burn the Roux or you’re gumbo will taste starchy.
1 Bag of Dried Shrimp
1/2 gallon of Water
4 Bouillion cubes
3 lbs Shrimp
2 cups Okra
1 lb of Beef Sausage
2 C. Cooked Rice
Tony Chachere Filé, Cayenne Pepper and Tabasco to taste
“My secret is two pinches of fresh cilantro.” -Jessica
1. Add your finished Roux into a large stockpot with the water and bouillion. Bring to a slow boil on medium-high heat.
2. Toss in the bag of dried shrimp and drumsticks.
3. Meanwhile deslime your okra by heating in 3 TBLSP cooking oil and 2 TSP vinegar and fry it just a few moments, to soften the okra. Then add it to the stockpot, along with pinches to taste of Chachero Filé, Cayenne Pepper, Tabasco, Salt & Pepper.
4. After the Gumbo has cooked for 20 minutes add the sausages and let cook another twenty minutes before adding in your rice. Wait 5 minutes, then add shrimp. Let the gumbo go for another 5-6 minutes and shut off the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve with a big dollop of potato salad, square on top of the gumbo – country style.
1. Play with your sausages: Use all pork or all beef, or try cajun style sausage which is a blend of the two.
2. Coconut Oil or Olive Oil can be used instead of Cooking Oil, like Vegetable Oil.
3. Be creative when it comes to your seafod. Try crab legs, scallops, almost any kind of seafood can be used to create a more interestingly flavorful dish.
4. Try substituting brown rice for the white rice.
5. Use fresh ingrediants whenever possible to make your gumbo really POP.