In 1979, when Chef Paul Prudhomme and his late wife,
K, opened their unpretentious, 62-seat K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in
Orleans' historic French Quarter, they had no idea the restaurant
was soon to become a world sensation. Most importantly, Mr. Prudhomme
put on the map his own personal blend of Cajun and Creole culinary delights,
which he simply called Louisiana cooking. With Mardi Gras around the
corner, who else but Chef Paul Prudhomme could be the definitive source
for a traditional Cajun Gumbo.
Yields: 10 servings.
- 1 cup melted pork lard, or use peanut, corn or vegetable
- ¾ cup flour
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped green peppers
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 10 small or 5 large bay leaves
- 1 ¾ teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh
- 6 cups (about 1˝ lb.) fresh, tender young okra cut
crosswise into one-quarter-inch-thick rounds, or use 3 packages frozen,
- 3 cups smoked ham cut into “sticks” about 1-inch
long and ˝ inch wide (a ham known as tasso, a New Orleans specialty,
is best for this. If you wish to make a Creole gumbo, do not use a
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt to taste, if desired
- 4 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely
chopped, about two pounds, or use chopped, imported canned tomatoes
- 6 cups fish stock
- 1 lb. peeled, blanched crayfish tails file powder
to be added as desired, optional
A heavy, black, iron skillet is almost essential for
the preparation of this dish. It is also strongly recommended that all
the ingredients be chopped and assembled before starting to cook. Combine
and assemble them in the order in which they will be used so they may
be added without hesitation.
Heat one-half cup of the melted lard or oil in the skillet
until it is barely smoking. Add the flour and stir vigorously and constantly
with a wire whisk about three minutes or until the mixture is the color
of dark chocolate. Take care that it does not burn. Quickly add half
of the onions, one-half cup of the green peppers and one-half cup of
the celery. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, about three minutes.
Add four small bay leaves or two large bay leaves, one teaspoon of cayenne
pepper, one teaspoon white pepper, one-half teaspoon black pepper and
cook, stirring, about one minute. Add one teaspoon of the minced garlic
and cook briefly, stirring. Remove from the heat. Scrape the mixture
into a large casserole and set aside. There should be about one-and-one-half
Heat the remaining one-half cup of melted lard or oil
in a black iron skillet over very high heat. When it is hot and almost
smoking, add the okra. Cook, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Frozen
okra may require a shorter cooking time. Add the remaining onions, green
peppers, celery and minced garlic, one cup of the ham and the remaining
bay leaves. Continue cooking over high heat, stirring occasionally,
for five minutes and add the remaining cayenne pepper, white pepper
and black pepper, and the garlic powder. Add salt, if desired.
Cook until the mixture is quite dry, about five minutes.
Add the tomatoes. Stir and cook over high heat, stirring often, about
10 minutes. Stir carefully and often all over the bottom to prevent
sticking and burning. Pour and scrape this mixture into the large casserole
containing the browned flour. Add the fish stock and the remaining ham.
Cook over moderately high heat for about one hour. Stir often all over
the bottom. Add the crayfish tails or shrimp and bring to the boil.
Let simmer about five minutes
The base of this gumbo before the seafood is added
may be made several days in advance and refrigerated. It also may be
frozen. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaves. Serve the file powder
separately to be added by each guest according to taste. Serve with
plain boiled or steamed rice.
To learn more about K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, log
on to www.chefpaul.com/kpaul