Le Vrai Gumbo


Back in the day in Haute Volta (now Burkina Faso) in the early 80s, we met a couple, Pim Zwaan from Holland and Clara from French speaking Cameroons.  Even though we moved on, we kept in touch, visiting them in their really cool townhouse in Gorinchem, Netherlands.  Interesting was that Pim’s father, who was a doctor, had a street named after him in Gorinchem because of his clandestine work ferrying Jews out of Europe during the war.

They had two children; Hans who was a few weeks older than our son and their eldest,  Raymond.  When our son and I were evacuated from Haiti in 1991, Raymond came to visit us at our house in the Catskills with his girlfriend.  We had arranged that they would take a taxi from N.Y. City to the town of Liberty, NY and that I would pick them up there, about 14 miles away, and take them to our house in Jeffersonville.  I got a call from them at about 11:00 p.m. saying that they had arrived in Liberty, so I threw my sleeping 8 year old in the back seat and headed out like a bat out of hell, watching out for the odd wandering deer on the way.

I hit the town limits going way over the speed limit and was immediately stopped by a town policeman.  I rolled down the window and, before he could speak, told him that I knew I was over the speed limit but that I was picking up two young people and that he should follow me and we could discuss everything later.  The fact that he said okay and followed me to the rendezvous never ceases to amaze my husband who grew up in this area.  After we picked up Raymond, the policeman just gave me a warning and told me to be careful on the way home 🙂

I’m talking about this now because we lost touch with the Zwaan family for 20 years and just found Raymond through Linkedin yesterday  🙂  We are so pleased!


Jade’s got a 2 week vacation and has a list of things she wants to eat. Gumbo was at the top of the list and since I got my gumbo file from France, I was ready.


Gumbo File

8 large farm raised chicken thighs

Emeril’s Essence

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 onion, quartered

2 garlic cloves, quartered

Leaves from 3 celery branches

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tsp peppercorns

2 quarts water

1 lb Spanish chorizo, sliced

Season the thighs with the essence, then brown in the oil.  Set the skillet, reserving the oil, to the side. Put the chicken thighs in a large stock pot with the vegetables, herbs and water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  Reserving the broth, remove the thighs, allow to cool, then remove the skin and bones, breaking the chicken into chunks.  Set aside.

Brown the chorizo slices in the reserved oil. Remove and set aside, reserving the oil.

2/3 cup flour

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 celery branches, sliced

1 tbsp Emeril’s essence

1 tbsp gumbo file

1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 tbsp gumbo file

Sliced scallions

Brown the flour in the reserved oil until the flour is cooked and a chocolate brown.  Add the chopped onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery, then cook until soft.  Sprinkle the vegetables with the essence and file, then gradually add, stirring, about 10-12 cups of the reserved broth.  Pour the broth into a large stockpot, bring to a boil, then add the chorizo and chicken chunks.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute.  Remove the pot from the fire, stir in the second tbsp of gumbo file and allow to rest for 15 minutes.  Serve with rice, scallions and more gumbo file if desired.

Beverage suggestion:  Beer

About cookinginsens

An American living in Burgundy, France
This entry was posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Le Vrai Gumbo

  1. I never knew what Gumbo was, even though I was familiar with the name. I thought it was a word from the Southern states for soup. Gumbo file is a new ingredient to me – I must search it out.

  2. Maybe I should have checked the last comment 🙂

  3. chefconnie says:

    I need to make some Gumbo. I love that fact that your daughter has a list of foods for her break. Whenever my daughter is away from home she looks forward to food from home also. What a lovely story and I am glad you found these people after all these years.

  4. Mad Dog says:

    I love Gumbo – I might have to put on the Dr. John and make some myself 😉

  5. Tessa says:

    I just purchased a new jar of file powder last week. I was thinking of gumbo too! Yours looks delicious!

  6. Lovely gumbo, have never made one… perhaps I should!

  7. Looks fantastic, Rosemary! I can just imagine the scene with the police officer. You must have that I-Mean-Business magic voice!

  8. I have that file powder just languishing away in my cabinet. This looks just wonderful.

  9. Michelle says:

    LinkedIn has been (at least for me) totally worthless for its intended business purposes, but sometimes has reconnected me with old friends as you describe here. Great looking gumbo. It is indeed a small world, if you can find Zatarain’s filé powder in France!

  10. oh i just love a good bowl of gumbo…making my mouth water…lovely post..sarah

  11. Karen says:

    I love a good bowl of gumbo…one of my favorite dishes to have when I am in New Orleans.

  12. Oh, I haven’t made gumbo in so long. This looks great with the shrimp and sausage….

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