18 months ago, my doctor told me it’d be best if I cut gluten completely out of my diet. Thankfully, I’m not Celiac, but I am very sensitive to gluten, or as they say, gluten intolerant. When she suggested this, I’m sure I gave her an “Are you out of your mind look!?!?” After all, I’m a Southern girl.
And if you know anything about Southern food, it’s loaded with, thickened with, or dusted with flour, which is gluten. I had to wrap my mind around all of this. She assured me it was for the best and was certain that I’d feel better, if I did so. Plus, I had just been diagnosed as hypothyroid, so this dietary change would help that, too.
Not one to do things halfway, I dove in with both feet, clearing the pantry, fridge, and freezer of anything containing obvious or hidden gluten. And lemme tell ya: just because it‘s not made with flour doesn’t mean it’s gluten-free. I’m looking at you McDonald’s french fries. 😭
But guess what? A mere two weeks after cutting this staple ingredient from my diet, there were many noticeable and positive differences. And each month that’s passed, there’s been more. The least of which is weight loss, although that was a nice perk. No, I’m talking no joint aches, chronic nasal congestion is all but gone, migraines have been greatly reduced, pesky little arm bumps have disappeared, and on and on and on.
But going gluten free wasn’t easy, especially in the early days, for me or my family. Oh, my sweet family! They wondered if I’d ever cook a good meal again. For you see, some gluten-free alternatives leave a lot to be desired, but it’s getting better.
Personally, I knew I wouldn’t miss sweets and desserts. Most, I can take or leave. But bread, oh my word, that was another situation entirely! What the heck was I gonna do?!?! See, I have a little, okay, perhaps a large, obsession with freshly baked bread, slathered with a whole lotta butter. Not to mention, how was I ever going to make my childhood favorites like Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, Crawfish Étouffée, Cornbread, and Biscuits and Gravy?
Over the last few months, we’ve learned how and where to shop, so as not to break the bank because gluten-free ain’t cheap! And I’ve also found ways to make most of my favorites, even Macaroni and Cheese. However, much to my son’s dismay, I haven’t attempted Biscuits and Gravy. The funny thing: we actually prefer some of the gluten-free versions of our favorites, especially gumbo. I don’t know why, but we all think the roux made with gluten-free flour is much better.
It’s a bit cool today, so my son requested that I make gumbo. And since it’s his Birthday Week, well, he gets to be indulged and spoiled a little, or, maybe, a lot!
Gluten-Free Gumbo For a Crowd
Servings: 8 with plenty for leftovers
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/2 cup of gluten-free flour (I’ve used several, and al have been great.)
2 onions, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
3-5 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb of chicken or turkey meat
1lb of smoked sausage
1 lb shrimp, optional*
3-4 quarts of chicken stock
2 T of tomato paste
Seasonings: salt, pepper, cayenne pepepr, Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs (herbs de Provence, parsley, thyme, oregano), 2-3 bay leaves, Tabasco Sauce
Garnishes: chopped green onion and fresh parsley
1. Dice all vegetables. Chop sausage, de-bone chicken, or dice up boneless skinless chicken breasts/thighs.
2. In dutch oven/stockpot heat oil to smoking hot on medium heat, turn heat down; add flour with some salt and pepper; and a touch of cayenne pepper, if you like it spicy (It is best to season as you go.) Stir. Stir. Stir. Don’t let the roux burn. This is the base for the gumbo. You want the roux to be a rich carmel/chocolate-brown color. This adds a nutty flavor, as well as a gorgeous color to your gumbo.
3. Add diced veggies. Cook until just coated and tender. And make sure NOT to burn the garlic, or you’ll have to start from the beginning.
4. Add meats of your choice (If using shrimp, add those right before serving since they cook quickly). Brown the meats, but don’t worry about cooking thoroughly. This will happen as it simmers on the stove (or the Instant Pot, which is my go-to these days.)
5. Add broth, bring to a boil. Stirring to incorporate the roux.
6. Add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, bay leaves, and dried herbs. (My fav: a big ole handful of Herbs de Provence, but you can use parsley flakes, oregano and thyme). Taste the gumbo, you might need to add a touch of salt, black pepper, more cayenne, etc.
7. Let simmer as long as you can, at least an hour; several, if possible. (Or cook in Instant Pot about 45 minutes, with Natural Pressure Release.)
8. Cook rice or quinoa. Serve gumbo over steamed rice/quinoa. Top with some chopped fresh parsley or green onion, hot sauce, and a sprinkling of Filè, which is ground Sassafras leaves.
9. Eat and enjoy. Oh, and it’s ALWAYS better the next day, or even the next. And freeze the leftovers for a meal on a crazy night, or to take to a friend!
Recipe provided by: Jada Bown Swanson. Jada and I have been friends online for over a decade now. She currently lives just a couple hours south of where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. (She is originally from Louisiana.) Jada is an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church and serves on pastoral staff of Timberlake Church in Snohomish County, Washington. In addition to pastoring, Jada is a worship leader, conference speaker, spiritual director, retreat facilitator and writer (Check out more of her writing at The Park Forum.)