I’ve never understood cooks who guard their recipes. I’ll give away any formula I’ve ever created for any dish under the sun knowing full well that the recipient couldn’t follow it if their life depended on it. It’s the nature of a cook. They’re always going to “improve” any recipe they get their hands on by putting their own signature on it. You can see the wheels turning while they bustle about in the kitchen wildly substituting this for that til they’ve made their own version.

Here’s my gumbo recipe. It began it’s life as a formula developed by a Black maid in Louisiana. I scored it off a former boss who grew up rich in our eastern neighbor. Their family had a live-in maid who cooked 90% of the family meals. And like any cook, once I got my hands on it, I revised it.

5lbs Chicken thighs,

5lbs Sausage, smoked, use the good stuff or better yet make your own, chopped

8 each Onions, yellow, sweet, chopped, 1015s are best

1 bunch Celery, chopped

6 each Chiles, Poblano, not the bells that are mystifyingly popular, chopped

2 heads Garlic, minced

2 lb Okra, fried in good fat til the slime is gone, a crucial step that many cooks miss a beat on

¼ c. Cayenne, powder

2 T. Pepper, Black, ground

2 T. Paprika, ground

Salt, to taste

8 quarts stock, chicken or pork

4 bunches Onion, green, chopped


First let’s make a roux. There are many ways to make this essential thickener, but here’s my favorite method:

* Heat 1 cup oil (goose fat, duck fat, peanut oil, bacon fat, butter for example) in heavy bottomed cast iron pot

* Add 2 cups flour, and stand stirring over medium heat for 45 minutes

* If you have a kitchen helper put him/her to good use now and make them do it

* It is crucial that the roux be constantly stirred

* Once it’s the color of black walnut set aside to allow to cool

Now let’s make the gumbo

* Heat 1/2 c. peanut oil in large stockpot, I use a Le Creuset

* Add onions, peppers, and celery-the Holy Trinity of Cajun cuisine, without these elements your dish is a fraud

* Cook for a minimum of one hour or til the Trinity is nicely caramelized

* Add garlic, cook for 15 minutes more

* Add meats, cook for a minimum of one hour

* Add pre-cooked okra, if you don’t like okra omit it

* Add Black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika, cook 30 minutes

* Add stock, simmer for one hour

* Add cold roux to hot gumbo, once again, crucial, this will keep your roux from separating

* Add chopped green onions, it’s not gumbo unless it has a truckload of green onions in it

* Simmer 30 minutes

Making an authentic Cajun gumbo is an all-day affair. I make my stock one day then make my gumbo the next. This version is mind-bogglingly delicious. I’ve served thousands of people with this recipe.

This version was scaled down from my original that produced 40 quarts, petite by Cajun standards but capable of feeding roughly a hundred people.


Standing in a muddy backyard on North Loop in Austin, Texas back in the double aughts. I had gathered the Texas Top Cook competition crew together for a one night food party that we called Louisiana Death Match.

A dozen or so professional cooks as well as a handful of housewife-sorts had all gathered on an impromptu proving grounds to see who was making the best gumbo in the city.

When the mud had settled the recipe above emerged victorious. One of my proudest moments.

Serve this gumbo over good Louisiana rice or sans rice with a big scoop of cold potato salad as a garnish. That’s the way they do it in the great state of Louisiana.

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