Gumbo is the ultimate thick and hearty dish to warm up with. It’s a melting pot recipe of sorts too, drawing influence from multiple cultures. The name “gumbo” is similar to a West African word for “okra,” which suggests that the original dish used okra as a natural thickener. The spice choices are Cajun inspired, and the dish’s base is a roux, the French technique of frying flour and fat as a thickener.
What is gumbo exactly? “Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux and is made with shellfish or chicken,” says Chef Cedric Harden of River Roast in Chicago. “Sausage or ham is often added to gumbos of either variety.” A third, lesser-known variety, the gumbo z’herbes, is essentially a gumbo of slow-cooked greens, he says.