Madam Gamache’s Recipe for Big Easy Gumbo with Crispy Okra

To celebrate National Gumbo Day, here is a recipe for Sal’s mom’s gumbo, on which he blames his “stocky” waistline in Chapter 6 of Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island.


  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 pound okra, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 (14-oz.) cans low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/2 pound Andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas, thawed
  • 1 pound peeled, large raw shrimp (1 6/20 count)
  • 1 cup white rice cooked for 20 minutes in 2 cups of boiling water
  • Freshly chopped scallions for garnish

Step 1

  • Heat peanut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until flour is chocolate colored. (Do not burn mixture.)

Step 2

  • Reduce heat to medium. Stir in onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and Creole seasoning. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Gradually stir in chicken broth; add chicken, sausage, and peas. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.

Step 3

  • For the crispy okra: Heat 2-inches of canola oil in a high-sided sauté pan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  • Place the cornmeal in a shallow baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
  • Season the okra with salt and pepper and toss in the cornmeal. Fry the okra, in batches, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to the baking sheet and season with salt.
  • Divide the gumbo among 4 shallow bowls and top with white rice. Add the honey and garnish with the fried okra and chopped parsley.
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