Gumbo-thon!

A nasty winter system headed this way.

After Wednesday morning in a blind a bunch of us will be gathering for an annual lunch together as duck, pheasant, quail and turkey seasons come to an end.

Sounds like perfect conditions for a gumbothon!

I like many kinds of cooking but none more than throwing together a monster batch of gumbo.

That there are no real rules for a batch of the Cajun classic is a major attraction. It’s also fun to make it into monster-sized batches.

Most times I just walk out to our deep freeze and gather up an arm load of whatever I find.

The batch I made over the weekend includes the breast meat from a wild turkey gobbler we got last spring and the thighs from two young birds I shot this winter.

There’s also a wild pig roast, a dandy elk roast and four pounds of tube sausage.

I had to slum it and buy this year’s sausage. Most years I have a bunch of spicy brats or Polish sausage made from a wild pig. Last year Ed Markel contributed some danged fine homemade elk sausage that worked great.

I base my batches on some gumbo lessons from good friend Margaret Simien. She’s the mother of  former KU All-American basketball player Wayne Simien, Jr.   Every media report I ever read listed gumbo as his favored food.

I can see why.

Margaret learned to make gumbo from Wayne Sr.’s mother, a Louisiana native. Wayne’s family concedes that Kansas –born Margaret makes the finest gumbo in the family.

Here are the basics for a normal-sized batch, one that would feed about six people.

I basically did everything about 4X for Wednesday’s feast. Leftovers freeze well. Jerrod likes to take a small container to work and eat it with a package of microwave rice.

ALL-AMERICAN GUMBO

1 stalk of celery

1 large onion

1 lb. tube sausage (Johnsonville makes a New Orleans-style that’s great.)

2 chicken breasts*

garlic powder

Cajun seasoning

Seasoning salt

4-6 oz. roux *

file *

1-2 cups shrimp

*Most cookbooks have recipes for making homemade roux. I use Savoie’s instant roux that I order from www.cajungrocer.com. You can also order some amazing sausage from them, too.

*File is basically ground sassafras leaves used to thicken gumbo. It’s optional and can be found at some local grocery stores or online.

*Pheasant breasts and thighs work great in gumbo as does wild turkey. Most of my mega-batches have a venison roast or two.

Cut meat and veggies into bite-sized pieces and place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the veggies and meat. Heat to a slow boil, stirring often.

Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt, Cajun seasoning and seasoning salt.

While it’s simmering, prepare the roux. If using instant roux boil about one quart of water and mix in the instant roux and stir and whisk until it’s totally disolved. Add to gumbo.

Let simmer another 20-30 minutes, stirring occassionally. Sample the broth. If it needs more “kick” sprinkle on more Cajun seasoning. If it needs more salt, add seasoning salt.

Cook rice, figuring about ¾  cup per serving of gumbo.

Add about 1 tbs. of file and stir into the pot of gumbo while you add the shrimp.

When serving, place rice in the bottom of a bowl and pour over the gumbo.

Other tips –

I like to make my gumbo two or three days in advance so the seasoning can work through all of the ingredients. If possible I’ll let it sit in the cooking pot in the garage or other cool place.

Again, there are no rules so get creative with the ingredients. Some use a lot of okra and others add peanuts. Rod Steven tells of adding shelled whole boiled eggs to the gumbo and putting one in each serving bowl.

Get creative, making each batch unlike any other is much of the fun.

So, while you’re eating your normal lunch Wednesday afternoon think of four good hunting buddies and a smattering of friends/landowners  and spouses coming in from the cold and sitting down to bowls of steaming gumbo.

I promise you, we’ll be having a great time.