January is always the time of year we make gumbo as a family. We also make enough to freeze and enjoy for the rest of the year because . . . 1) it’s a little time consuming, 2) there’s no need to make a tiny pot when you can make a ginormous one, and 3) it’s SCRUMPTIOUS.
Isn’t it interesting how a simple recipe or food can bring back so many memories? I have always been labeled as my family’s historian. My Meme gave me that type cast one afternoon that I spent with her because of my love to hear *all the stories* over and over again. And, boy, did she have some stories! We always begged her to write a book of them all, but she never got around to it. I always took a lot of pictures and would thumb through her old pictures every time I visited. She even gave me an old film camera once with several reels of 8mm video taken over the course of her life. I love to remember. It’s probably because I can be so quick to forget. Most days I can’t remember what I did the day before. This is why my daughter may have ended up with 5 different pairs of green ruffle paints this season. (Purchasing amnesia . . . ahem.)
A Cajun in the Kitchen
My Meme was an incredible cook with a lot of experience. She had seven children of her own, as well as five more she became Mom to after my grandfather passed and she remarried. This led to well over 30 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. Her cooking was loved by all and something we looked forward to every year as we gathered for holidays and visits. Her most famous dish amongst the family was likely her seafood gumbo. Born Cajun, she made best friends with roux and we all benefited greatly.
When my Meme passed this last January, we truly lost the matriarch of our family. She held us together like glue. Although I was not privy to any heirlooms being passed down, I do have her recipes that I made sure to copy throughout the years . . . and the memories. Memories of all the moments we spent together talking about life, and love, and family. Those are my heirlooms. Those I will get to pass on to my own children. I also have these words of wisdom:
- “If you serve yourself, you must eat it all. If you are served, you can eat as much as you want.”
- “If you give to family or friends, never expect anything in return.”
- “If you don’t want dinner, there’s peanut butter and jelly in the pantry. Make yourself a sandwich.”
I told you she had A LOT of grands in the house.
A Legacy Recipe :: Seafood Gumbo
So, this January, I wanted to share this delicious seafood gumbo recipe with you — created (and made often!) by a true Cajun, my Meme. May her legacy live on as often as it’s cooked and enjoyed. I will add some measurements here that she gave me because she rarely used them . . . she cooked with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Love you, Meme.
Meme’s Seafood Gumbo
Make about 1 – 1 1/2 cups medium dark roux (1 1/2 cups flour and 1 – 1 1/2 cups oil or bacon drippings, slowly browned). In gumbo sized pot (see picture!), use six quarts water; add 3-4 crab bodies (if not available, use 1 – 2 cans crab meat). Add 1 large can tomatoes, crushed but not drained. Bring to a boil. Add enough roux to thicken and darken water. Stir constantly until roux is dissolved.
Chop: 1 to 2 whole celery stalks, 3-4 onions, 3 lbs. okra
Add to gumbo. Simmer slowly, stirring occasionally for 3-4 hours. Add small dash of Kitchen Bouquet for color and taste. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper as desired. (You can use Paul Predhommes’ Seafood Magic Seasoning.) Just 10 minutes before gumbo is finished cooking, add 3 lbs. of peeled shrimp. Simmer 10 minutes then turn heat off and allow to cool on top of the stove. It is better if made the day before. Enjoy!
What is one of your favorite family recipes??! The more we share, the better cooks we all become.