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Maggie’s Pantry

By Maggie Conklin
My dear father grows a vegetable garden every year, and some of my earliest memories are of him roto-tilling the field in the spring.
Every year is a bit different, but always includes little redskin potatoes, golden potatoes and string beans. There’s a raspberry patch and blueberry row, with wild strawberries strewn between the two.
After those must-haves, he might decide on different items to plant, grow and harvest. This year included pumpkins and other gourds, squashes, wax beans, sugar snap peas and okra.
“I’ll take some of that okra off your hands dad” I said, with gumbo in mind.
I’ve never made gumbo from scratch before, but after this success story I will make it often. I used a base recipe from John Besh’s cookbook “Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes.” I cut his recipe by a third to make enough for 4 people instead of 10+, and added many of my own ingredients.
This one takes time, specifically, you will be stirring non-stop for 25 minutes.
Cooked white or brown rice
•1/3 cup bacon grease (truly the best in this case)

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • Meat of choice, I used wild turkey meat and Andouille sausage, cubed
    In a medium heavy pot, heat bacon grease until really hot, then add flour and whisk it. It sizzles a lot! Turn down to medium and keep whisking for 15 minutes (set the timer) and the roux will turn a lovely warm brown color.
    When the timer chimes add the onions, turn down a little bit more and keep stirring for another 10 minutes (set the timer).
    Add the turkey or chicken or other raw meat, let cook for a bit, then add the sausage. Then add the celery and spices:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp each thyme, celery salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, allspice, paprika
  • 1 bay leaf (take it out before serving)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste
    It should be extremely thick and pasty at this point. Stir some more, then add:
  • 2 cups chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup okra, sliced
  • 1 fresh tomato, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
    Stir! Then simmer for another 30-45 minutes and serve over cooked rice.
    All that stirring in the beginning is what makes the magic of that super thick and rich sauce; more of a stew than a soup. This one is definitely going to be made again soon.

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