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Oct 23, 2008 07:41 AM

Okra in a Gumbo - Tips

I am making a shrimp and sausage gumbo. The recipe calls for .5 pound okra. In researching gumbos - I have come across the following tips for working with okra.

1. Saute separately before adding to gumbo
2. Brown in the oven on a sheet tray with a little oil - add to gumbo.
3. Add to Roux with Trinity and cook til all the strings disappear - then add liquid.

Are any of these worth doing?
Do you have any tips for working with Okra.

I assume mine will be frozen - I don't know if my store will have fresh - Will this make a difference?

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  1. Cooking the okra first will help take away the mushiness, but I personally love that gooey okra texture in a gumbo. It's my favorite part of it! I put it in from the freezer bag directly.

    1. Fresh okra is seasonal and many markets don't carry it even then. I use frozen and it comes sliced. I just add it to the gumbo, earlier rather than at the end with the shrimp. "Strings" aren't an issue. It almost dissolves into the stew. The tips you've come across don't sound like they could hurt the dish but it seems, IMHO, an unnecessary step.

      1 Reply
      1. re: c oliver

        fyi everyone - okra is almost always available in grocery stores in mostly black neighborhoods or in cities with more diverse populations.

        indian stores also usually carry okra.

        also, ask the produce manager. she/he might be able to get it - even at big box supermarkets. if it's listed on their list. when i moved to an area that didn't offer certain things, i asked for some okra and got it - at a ralphs.

        okra is something i would make the effort to get fresh.

      2. I never do anything to the okra when i use it for gumbo.
        You need to okra to be raw so that when it cooks, it thickens up the broth. If you seize it in a seperate pan first you will lose that.
        It adds some taste and texture but you mostly want it for it's thickening ways, some people use file powder instead since they can't stand the "slime" of the okra.

        1. Don't worry. Frozen okra is fine. I can rarely find good fresh okra in markets even in summer so I've stopped trying.
          You can ask every gumbo cook in Louisiana and you'll get a different answer, so I can only tell you how my family made okra-based gumbos.
          We didn't use both roux and okra. Made them too gloppy and the okra was all the thickener they needed. And NEVER use both okra and file.
          After you've sautéed the Trinity, add the okra and sauté until it loses the rope-y texture. In New Orleans, people add a little tomato to gumbos, but they don't in Cajun Country. The acid in the tomatoes cuts the rope-yness too.
          Then add your liquid and proceed.

          Can't see any sense in using a separate pan to saute. Browning in the oven would make it dry. Why?
          Go for the easy way. Gumbo is a one-pot deal.
          Good luck.

          9 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            Just curious, MS,
            you say NEVER both okra and file. I can perhaps understand this for the prep and cooking of gumbo, but would adding file as a condiment at the table be acceptable?
            (I know, its not a matter of acceptable versus prohibitive, just wanna know whats the norm in gumbo country)

            1. re: porker

              Most okra gumbo mkaers that I know don't offer file as a table spice.

              1. re: porker

                That "never" for okra-based gumbos is just like the "never" for seafood and cheese for Italians. Not done. Matter of taste and tradition.
                The okra provides sufficient thickening and filé functions as more of a seasoning anyway. All of my relatives - both city and country - use it as a table condiment for roux-based gumbos, and some other foods as well.
                Foods containing filé don't reheat well. The filé gets ropey.

                Okra is a hot-weather vegetable. Seafood gumbo is hot-weather gumbo. I can only make it year-round now because of frozen okra and shrimp but it still seems strangely out of season in winter.
                I switch to roux-based gumbos for winter. Filé is freshly ground in the Fall each year just in time for them. Traditionally, a lot of those were made with game, e.g. duck, squirrel or rabbit, or chicken (gumbo yaya), turkey, etc. Oysters are often added at serving.

              2. re: MakingSense

                exactly. my family is from new orleans and we always made a roux-based gumbo and used file with that. never mixed it with okra.

                but i don't think frozen is that great. but, i normally get it fresh when i want it during the season.

                1. re: misa

                  I was just looking at gumbo recipes on epicurious (I have some andouille to use up) and was a little scared/turned off by the okra. I have never actually made a gumbo. Do you suggest that I try my first one traditionally with the okra or without?

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Use the okra and you'll get over your fear, is my advice. I do not like okra all by itself, unless it's either pickled or fried to the overcooked stage, but if you add it to the soup early in the game (especially if it's the frozen and sliced) all the goo will go towards giving your gumbo a lovely smooth mouth feel, and a nicer flavor as well, and the vegetable itself will be nicely non-gluey.

                    My nearby poor-folks' market (Food 4 Less, a Kroger subsidiary) has frozen sliced gumbo with diced tomatoes, and I usually put two bags of that in my gumbo...but then I make enough to feed two of us for most of a week!

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Okra is super easy. Really. I buy a bag of frozen sliced okra and keep it in the freezer. When I make gumbo, I throw in a handful or two of the okra after the veggies are sauteed, and the stock and sausage are in.

                      It thickens everything beautifully and adds a nice depth of flavor. Nothing to be scared of.

                    2. re: cleopatra999

                      I can understand how people don't want to use okra for the first time. Then when firing it up, freaking a little when it starts to get slickerry.
                      After a couple of times, its no problem. In stew-like preps as gumbo, I find the flavor dissipates dramatically, adding mouth feel, as Will points out, more than anything (kinda like tofu).

                      1. re: porker

                        But while the gooiness dissipates, there is a subtle and very nice flavor that many of us miss in other okra preparations because we're too busy being disgusted by the texture. That's one of the beauties of gumbo.

                2. When I make shrimp and okra gumbo, I "smother" the okra as a base for the gumbo. I start by sauteeing the trinity, adding the okra, and usually some Rotel tomatoes, and cook it all down until the okra is very soft. Then I add my stock, let it all cook together for a while, and add the shrimp in the final stages. C'est bon!

                  I know that wasn't a real recipe, sawwy.