Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shrimp and Crab Gumbo with Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

You should know what's being cooked in the kitchen otherwise you might eat a forbidden food.
- African Proverb

Patience is not my strongest virtue.  I'm fiercely loyal, honest, creative, resourceful, compassionate, cool as a cucumber but I'm just a little, wee bit impatient at times.  Don't judge me.  With that said, I thought I'd jumpstart my Black History Month series a week early (Translation: I honestly tried, but I just can't wait ALL the way until next week.  After all, the elders did always say don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today.): Exploring the African Presence in Modern American Cuisine, where I'll highlight the presence of foods and techniques of African origin in modern American cuisine.  First on deck is okra.

Okra is my favorite vegetable.  My family planted the heat-loving vegetable in our garden every summer and it was a staple in our household.  Historians have identified the plant's origin as Africa, and evidence suggests that African slaves brought it to the United States by way of New Orleans.  According to agricultural experts at Alabama Cooperative Extension:

Okra "can be traced to the Nile basin in Egypt where Egyptians have cultivated it for centuries, according to accounts of the crop in the thirteenth century.  Okra spread through North Africa from the Nile basin and on to the eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and India, spreading to the New World from Brazil and Dutch Guiana."*   

To recap, African slaves brought okra to the United States by way of New Orleans, and one of the primary uses for okra in New Orleans is gumbo.  Gumbo combines ingredients and cultural influences from the French, Spanish, Germans, Choctaws, and West Africans.  There's reason to believe gumbo's etymology and preparation may have respectively derived from traditional West African languages and West African native dishes.   For a detailed history of this Louisiana dish, visit the Gumbo Wikipedia page.  For now, let's have some pot stirring fun and do the gumbo!  It doesn't matter if you're young or old.  I'm gonna show you how it goes.  Stir to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right.  Stir to the left, to the left, to the left, to the left.  Now mix, now mix, now mix, now mix.  Now, stir it by yourself.  Now, stir it by yourself.  Who said you couldn't do a cooking remix to the Cupid Shuffle?  Most definitely not me.

For this gumbo, I used renown chef Donald Link's recipe for Shredded Pork Gumbo with Black-Eyed Peas and made the following substitutions:

  1. One pound of shrimp & 1 pound of crab substituted for 1 1/2 pounds of pulled pork.  Seafood cooks rather quickly.  Do not add the shrimp and crab until the last few minutes of cooking; otherwise, it will turn rubbery and be inedible.
  2. Whole wheat flour substituted for all purpose flour
  3. One container of white button mushrooms (washed, sauteed in olive oil, set aside to cool, and then chopped) substituted for 4 pieces of bacon
  4. Two pounds of okra instead of the 1 1/2 pounds of okra called for in the original recipe
  5. I eliminated file powder from the seasoning mix since I don't like the taste of it.  Hence, more okra to thicken and flavor the gumbo since I love the taste of okra



  1. I have to say that it's not often that a blog catches my attention and I sit down and read every single word. Well done!! I'm Laurrie and I write Baked Lava and a fellow RecipesUS blogger. I think you really caught my attention because I am cooking my way around the world and I am utterly fascinated by different cultures and cuisines. You've got a new fan in me!! Stop by Baked Lava, if you'd like...I'm a short break from my world culinary tour and doing a short project that I call Austerity cooking. I look forward to seeing you there!

  2. Hi Laurrie. Thanks for the kind note! What a nice way to start my day.

    You are doing some interesting things over at Baked Lava and I've signed up to follow you as well. Cheers!


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