When choosing an easy camping recipe to cook in the great outdoors, gumbo is an excellent choice. Gumbo is the ultimate expression of Deep South Cajun Creole cooking. Its roots lie deep within the Louisiana Bayou country and is a staple of southerners and native Louisiana Cajuns alike. If you want to create a classic, delicious meal right in your Dutch oven, then you’re going to love this recipe. This can also be the perfect dish to add to holiday meals and gatherings, but it can even make a routine weeknight a treat. You can also freeze this dish in portions if you want to create individual portions to thaw and heat on nights when you’re tired and don’t want to cook.
What is Gumbo?
Gumbo is a thickened soup-like stew that uses a few primary ingredients. The base for the dish is a roux or flour that has been cooked with a fat such as oil and then slowly browned to a deep, rich color. Stock is then added slowly along with Okra, or if you wish to omit, you can substitute filé (ground sassafras root). The great thing about gumbo is that you can add as many or as few ingredients as you like. If can be made from poultry and sausage or shellfish and a combination of other ingredients. It is a flexible dish that can be changed to match your specific tastes. It may take a few tries to find the balance you like, so be patient and try this dish a few different ways.
Gathering the Ingredients
If you plan to use shellfish, make sure that you use high-quality ingredients because it dramatically affects the outcome of the dish. Some ideas for shellfish include shrimp, crab meat or whole crab, oysters, and crawfish. If you prefer to omit the shellfish, you can use chicken, sausage (Andouille works best), or even duck. Decide whether you want to use okra or filé before you begin cooking the dish and have the okra prepared appropriate before beginning. Make sure to wash the okra thoroughly before cutting.
In your camping kitchen setup, peel shrimp and crawfish before using. If using crab, you can use blue lump crab meat from the grocery store or seafood market, but you may also use fresh blue crab cut in half. Oysters should be shucked and rinsed before using. Using a camping cutting board and camping knife set, sausage should be cut into 1/2 sections and chicken should be cut into large chunks (it will fall apart during cooking). Remember, making the roux is the most time-consuming, critical stage of making gumbo. It is the key to the whole dish, so don’t get distracted during the cooking process and remember to keep stirring the entire time to avoid burning it.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
- 2 quarts of poultry stock
- 1/2 lb of each ingredient if using two; likewise 1/4 lb of each if using 4 ingredients
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 – 3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped (to taste)
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped and seeded
- 1 tsp of dried thyme
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 1 8-oz pkg of frozen okra, or approximately 10 pods of fresh okra sliced in 1/4 pieces
- 1 – 2 tbsp of filé powder
- cayenne pepper to taste
- salt to taste
To begin, heat Dutch oven with medium to low heat. Add oil or butter. Once it begins to bubble, add the flour and continue to stir constantly and evenly until the flour reach a mahogany color. Do not cook past a deep, rich reddish brown color. At this stage, the roux can easily burn and will need to be repeated. Don’t use burnt roux because it will ruin the gumbo. Combine the roux, sausage if you use it, and the vegetables and herbs. Cook for about 25 minutes on low heat.
Remove from heat and add the stock. Return to heat and then slowly begin adding the stock slowly and stir the mixture thoroughly as you add the stock. Add the rest of the seafood or poultry and cook on the stovetop on medium heat for 1 hour, or you can simmer in the oven, covered at 350 degrees. Add the okra if you opt to use it; if not, you can add filé—1 to 2 tbsp usually—to get the consistency you want. Cook an additional 20 minutes. Let stand and cool for 20 minutes. Serve over white rice.