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Gumbo isn’t a Belizean dish but its roots are Cajun/Creole so it seems like it should be served here. With a bit of tweaking, I have made this hearty dish both in Belize and in the US. I learned it from Alexis, Rachel’s friend from the Midwest. She bravely decided to take the plunge and make Gumbo while in Belize last January. “Knock yourself out,” I thought. I was, admittedly, a bit skeptical that she would find all the ingredients needed in the small, sparsely stocked stores in our remote locale. She proceeded to go to town, buy the ingredients, and cook the most delicious Gumbo for dinner that night. Despite the fact she had no recipe and was cooking in a foreign kitchen – she pulled it off! There were oohs and aahs from everyone at the table – myself included.
Alexis told us she originally used an old, faded, cut-from-the-newspaper recipe her mom found years ago. During her youth, she and her siblings always requested this savory stew for their birthday meal. She has since adapted it and alters the recipe depending on her mood – much like I do whenever I cook. There was no okra to be found so she substituted green zucchini squash instead. The stew she made fed six of us for several days and was even better when we reheated it.
Celery, onions and green peppers provide the focus of many Creole and Cajun dishes, so although I butchered the original formula for this stew, I feel like I can still call it GUMBO.
One Pot Gumbo
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tsbp oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium size white skinned onion, chopped ¼ inch
- 1 bunch green onions, green part too-sliced ¼ inch across
- 1 ½ green peppers – chopped 1/4 inch
- 2 stalks chopped celery-same size as aove
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium carrots, sliced ½ inch
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
- 3 cups homemade chicken broth-in a pinch use bouillion + water
- 2 cups of tomato juice
- ½ tsp or more of cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, slivered
- 14 ounces can whole tomatoes, with juice ( undrained-break apart with your hands)
- 2 cups zucchini, cubed ¾ inch
- 2 chicken leg quarters, (2 legs + two thighs)-skin removed
- 1 lb medium shrimp, deveined and shelled
- ½ tsp habanero sauce -use Marie Sharps
- 4 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa
Combine flour and oil /butter in a large pot or a 5 quart Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until a dark reddish-brown roux forms (about 20 minutes). Stir often.
Remove from the heat and add the white and green onions, green peppers, celery, and garlic. Stir well and return to heat and stir frequently for 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.
Add carrots, chicken broth, tomato juice, salt, sugar, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, oregano and zucchini. Add chicken leg quarters. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for an hour, stirring periodically. Remove chicken from the pot and cool it, shred the chicken meat and add it back into the stew, discarding bones. Once off the burner, add the shrimp to the soup–they will quickly cook from the retained heat of the broth.
Remove the bay leaves and stir in the habanero sauce; add salt or seasoning to taste.
Serve in a large soup bowl topped with a scoop of cooked quinoa or cooked brown rice for a very very filling meal!
You can substitute spicy chicken sausage for the chicken or cubes of firm fleshed fish in place of the shrimp (i.e. swordfish). The original recipe called for frozen okra in place of zucchini–I was more than satisfied with the zucchini version but okra would be fun to substitute as well. If you wish to try it, add 1 lb of frozen okra and be sure to cook it with the chicken and tomato base for the entire hour.