Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grandma's Chicken Okra Gumbo

For Christmas 2008, I helped my grandma create a book of family recipes for each member of our extended family.  (I put it together using tastebook and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to make one.)  The recipe book catalogs a lot of my family's favorite recipes plus photos and stories with each of the recipes.  I love to flip through it and look at the pictures of my grandma from before I was born.  This is one of my favorites:

It and this story accompany the recipe for my grandma's Chicken Okra Gumbo:

"The Bankston family brought this recipe from St. Helena’s Parish, Louisiana, when they moved to McPherson in 1936. Zack Bankston [my grandma's father] grew his own okra. The President of the Globe Oil Refinery showed up when the okra was ripe. Arriving with his chauffeur, he went to the garden and cut his own okra. Arline Bankston [grandma's mother] went to home ec classes once a year at the high school to teach the girls how to make okra gumbo."

I know that many people think of sausage and seafood when they hear gumbo, but this is the one that I grew up with and the one that I love.  So at least once a summer, when the okra comes to the farmer's market, I make it just like grandma does.  I like that it feels lighter and showcases the okra more than most gumbos I've tried.  But if you wanted to add sausage, go right ahead.  Though, I draw the line at filé, filé tastes like dirt.

Grandma's recipe doesn't have amounts, cause she just knows how much is right.  So these are the amounts and directions that I use. By the way, if you get a hankering for gumbo in the winter, frozen okra works surprisingly well (and Grandma approves).

Grandma's Chicken Okra Gumbo
Yields: 6 servings

4 chicken thighs
4 cups okra, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
30 oz canned tomatoes, diced
Small can of green chilis
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Old Bay Seasoning, optional

1. Heat approximately a 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom of a large pot.

2. Heavily flour, salt and pepper chicken. Brown well and remove.  The flour remaining in the oil will act as a roux to thicken the soup along with the okra.

3. Leave oil in skillet. Add okra, garlic, onions, and peppers.  Stirring frequently, cook until onions are translucent and okra a little bit brown. [Grandma notes: "May be a little bit slimy - don’t fret!"]

In my experience, it is always slimy.  But, seriously, don't fret.

4. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaves, and a bit of salt and pepper.  Stirring to get any remaining brown bits off the bottom of the pot.

5. Add chicken, simmer 45 minutes.  [Grandma says 4 to 6 hours, but I'm not as good at planning ahead as she is.  We ate this at 9:45pm even only simmering it 45 minutes.]
6. Remove chicken and allow to cool about 15 minutes.  Shred and return to pot.

7. Taste for seasoning and serve over hot rice with a dash of tabasco.

It may not win any beauty contests, but it sure is tasty.

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