Okra is a flowering plant that is native to West Africa and consumed as a vegetable all around the world. It was brought to the United States during the slave trade and is very popular in the South. Okra is often used in gumbo, as in this recipe that your child will learn how to make, as she practices with measurements along the way. This version uses Andouille sausage and tender pieces of chicken, in a flavorful but mild broth that can be easily intensified with spices, your child’s palette permitting.
What You Do:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Have your child prepare 2 cups of rice as directed on the package.
- In a small pot, your child can bring the okra to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Set it aside in a colander in the sink, allowing the sticky juices to drain while he prepares the other ingredients.
- Have him cut the sausages into thin slices.
- Using a pair of kitchen scissors, ask your child to cut the chicken into 1” pieces. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
- On a baking sheet, have your child spread the flour in a thin layer and put it into the oven for 45 minutes. Stir the flour every 15 minutes. The flour will fill the house with a toasty, nutty aroma as it bakes. Once it is a deep brown color, remove the flour from the oven and set it aside.
- In a large pot, have your child sauté the sausage on medium high heat until it is browned on both sides, and then remove it to a platter, keeping the juices in the pot.
- In the same pot, your child can sauté the chicken over medium heat until just cooked through.
- Then, he can remove the chicken to a platter, keeping the cooking liquid in the pot.
- Have him carefully pour the flour into the pot and stir immediately. Be mindful of hot grease that may splatter a little bit.
- The next step is for your child to add ½ cup canola oil and stir until the roux is a dark reddish-brown. Be sure to stir constantly so the roux doesn’t burn. This step is very important. If the roux burns, then you have to start all over again.
- Have your child add the diced green pepper, celery and onion to the pot and stir well.
- Allow the mixture to cook for approximately 4 minutes until the onion is translucent. Your child can add the garlic and okra and cook another minute.
- To the pot, have your child add the diced tomato and chicken stock to the pot and continue stirring.
- Finally, he can add the cayenne pepper and allow the gumbo to simmer for 25 minutes, or until the okra is tender.
- It’s time to serve the gumbo! Ask your child to pour a heaping cup’s worth over half a cup of rice and enjoy! If your child likes spicier foods, he can add more cayenne or several dashes of Tabasco sauce.
Notes: In a traditional roux, it is necessary to cook flour and fat (e.g., butter or oil) in a pot and stir constantly, as long as 45 minutes to an hour. Since this step can be difficult for young chefs as well as potentially dangerous due to splattering of hot roux, this safer and easier method calls for browning the flour in the oven then adding it to the fat and stirring briefly before adding other ingredients. It also makes burning the roux less likely.
Fun fact: What is the “Holy Trinity” in Southern cooking? This term refers to three key ingredients used as the base in many Cajun and Creole recipes: Celery, bell peppers, and onions.