Coast Cooking

Gumbo season is in the air

It is still beastly hot, but early in the morning you can almost feel that first brush with fall.

I look forward to that morning when it is more than a hint and the air is cool, and you want to fill your lungs with it and marvel at the bright blue sky. All seems well with the world.

But that first hint of fall also means it is time to consider the first gumbo of the season. Gumbo, when made with love and care, is soul stirring, not only because it is hearty, but because when you stir that pot you know that hands of your ancestors did the same thing, felt the same way, and hungered for the goodness of the first pot of fall gumbo, just as you do today.

Years ago in one of my first food stories I wrote about gumbo and promised myself I never would do it again. It seems many people are offended by a gumbo recipe that differs from their own, so instead of offering a recipe let’s just look at three basics you might consider.

- The foundation of your gumbo should be a good stock. Consider making it from seafood and chicken, and don't forget lots of long-simmered vegetables as well. Simmer at least one hour.

- A gumbo with depth of flavor will always have a pork component: sausage is most popular, but always remember to brown it first, that help develops the flavor.

- When you use seafood in gumbo please do not overcook it. The seafood stock will help to develop the flavor you want, but long simmered shrimp become devoid of flavor and have an unpleasant texture. Shrimp should always be delicate and tender.