Like the fabulous Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches, no gumbo is exactly the same, and every executive chef, sous chef, chef de partie, and cook has a twist.
Some swear by tossing in shrimp or crab or chicken or sausage.
Others argue over filé, okra, or both.
Tomatoes? Some say absolutely, while others say no way!
Cajun or creole spice? Both?
For some, a scoop of rice is a must. For others, rice is a bust, and a scoop of creamy potato salad right in the middle is preferred.
So many ways to make it, but local Gulf Coast gumbo expert Audrey Duncan said gumbo is always great any way you make or serve it as long as it’s heartfelt.
“It’s all about bringing so many different flavors together,” Duncan said. “And as long as it’s made from your heart, your soul, and with love, it’s perfect.”
Duncan, who has been dishing up steaming bowls of gumbo for 36 years, grew up in Natchez and moved to the Coast about 25 years ago. No restaurants were serving the home-style southern cooking she grew up eating. So seven years ago, she opened Ms. Audrey’s Southern Kitchen & Catering in Gulfport with fresh-daily, made-from-scratch soul food, just like her mother taught her to cook. Duncan and her seafood gumbo quickly won a loyal customer base at her Gaston Point neighborhood restaurant.
Duncan tosses filé and okra in her specialty seafood gumbo and serves it with a scoop of rice. It’s the most sought-after dish she serves each day.
“But, I’ve seen it all kinds of ways,” Duncan said, adding Mississippi gumbo is traditionally served with rice and crackers while Louisiana gumbo usually has a scoop of potato salad and fresh French bread with butter.
“We always know when someone from New Orleans is here,” Duncan said.
She uses three kinds of sausage in her shrimp and crab gumbo and a secret blend of creole spices she makes in her kitchen.
“Now, I’ve heard of people making it with tomatoes,” Duncan said. “I don’t, but it’s certainly fine if you do.”
Duncan keeps about 175 of her handed-down recipes locked away in Ms. Audrey’s Kitchen Bible.
“There’s only one copy of it, and the recipes are typed and hand-written,” Duncan said. “They go back decades and were passed down from my mother.”
Duncan has each recipe memorized, however, her staff uses the Kitchen Bible to learn how to cook her dishes including seafood gumbo, fried chicken, black-eyed peas, greens, macaroni and cheese, and peach cobbler. She said the book is the soul of her kitchen and plans to publish Ms. Audrey’s Kitchen Bible as a cookbook later this year.
Until then, here’s a seafood gumbo recipe that everyone will want to find at a family reunion this summer.
Mississippi Seafood Gumbo
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp. oil or bacon drippings
16 ounces of seafood stock
3 chopped onions
1 celery stalk
1 chopped green pepper
3 minced garlic cloves
2 cups okra
2 tbsp. gumbo filé
1 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash of hot sauce
3 lb. peeled, raw shrimp
1 lb. cooked crab meat or 6-8 crab bodies
Heat oil or bacon grease in a large pot. Add flour and brown slowly until a dark roux has been made. Slowly add a cup of water to thin roux.
Add onion, celery, pepper, okra, and garlic. Continue to brown the mixture very slowly for about an hour. Add stock, filé, oregano, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cook for four hours. Add shrimp and crab meat, and cook slowly for two hours.
Serve with rice and crackers.
Now that you know gumbo is incredible any way it’s made and served…how do you gumbo? Let us know in the comments on Facebook.