This gumbo is rich and toasty thanks to the dark roux. It's wonderful with oysters, shrimp and crab, but New Orleans chef Slade Rushing of Brennan's says you can substitute what's good in your area: clams, for instance, or even chicken. File powder is traditional in gumbo (you can find it at amazon.com). It's made from ground sassafras leaves and adds an earthy, vegetal flavor.
“Deep in the Louisiana bayou, Cajuns still live off the land—trapping, shrimping, crabbing and hunting,” says Andrew Zimmern. “Cooks make gumbo with nutria, a giant, water-dwelling rodent. It’s a dish of need, not want. I learned my gumbo techniques from a trapper’s wife, but I use oysters and crab; no rodent required.”
At Boston’s Tupelo, chef Rembs Layman prepares rich gumbo with house-made stock and a jerk seasoning blend. At home, use store-bought rotisserie chicken, canned chicken broth and supermarket jerk or Cajun seasoning.
Jess Jackson asks for this ersatz gumbo every time he visits his Kentucky farm. “He always says, ‘We should have this once a week,’ ” Huffman says. “Then, when he’s about halfway through the bowl—‘OK, twice a week.’ It’s not authentic gumbo, but Creole flavors have crept up to Kentucky.”
New Orleans cooks traditionally make this smothered greens dish without meat for Good Friday. David Kinch, however, prepares his version with a generous amount of pork, as well as eight different kinds of greens, including carrot tops.