You know what they say: Everything's bigger in Texas. If the dishes featured in Dean Fearing's new cookbook, The Texas Food Bible are anything to judge by, then it must be true. With images of hearty helpings alongside recipes for big, bold and flavorful dishes from one of the pioneers of Tex-Mex himself, this collection is perfect for homesick Texans and any home cooks inspired by this state's unique, rich culinary tradition. For a characteristically spice-filled and soul-warming Lone Star dish, try this recipe for East Texas Gumbo.
East Texas Gumbo
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 cup bacon fat or 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 cups diced boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat
- 1 cup diced pork butt
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced onions
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups chicken stock or nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth
- ½ pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into thin slices
- 1 cup ½-inch sliced okra
- 1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
- ½ pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 12 shucked oysters
- ½ pound Gulf jumbo lump crabmeat
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon file powder (see Note)
- Fresh lemon juice
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Saltine crackers, for serving
- Tabasco sauce, for serving (optional)
- Heat the bacon fat (or unsalted butter) in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and pork and season lightly with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until nicely browned.
- Add the bell pepper, celery and onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the roux is almond colored and has a distinct nutty aroma.
- Stir in the garlic, basil, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, Old Bay and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Stir in the stock, 1 cup at a time, and continue to cook, stirring, until all the stock has been added and the mixture has thickened. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
- The gumbo may be made up to this point and stored, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Reheat before adding the remaining ingredients.
- Add the sausage, okra and tomatoes and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Add the shrimp, stirring to combine, and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the oysters, crabmeat, parsley and file powder, and remove from the heat. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice. Taste and, if necessary, season with salt and black pepper.
- Serve piping hot with lemon wedges, a heap of saltines and a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the side, if desired.
NOTE: Equal portions of onion, celery and green pepper are known as the “holy trinity” in gumbo parlance. File powder (also known as gumbo file) is ground from dried leaves of the sassafras tree. The spicy herb was first used by the Choctaw Indians, indigenous to the American South, as a thickening agent for stews. It is now primarily used in Creole and Cajun cooking to both thicken and season stews and soups. It has an earthy, woody taste that some liken to root beer. It is always added after the cooking is completed, as it turns stringy and tough when cooked.