It’s Leap Year Again, The Season For Gumbo Soup

Every four years we celebrate Leap Year, the 29th of February. While this day amazingly has been around since 45 BC, many of us think of it as a recent event. In fact, it’s an ancient invention that was added to the calendar to keep it in line with the seasons of the year.

Still, many Americans in the 1930s associated Leap Year with a made-up event called Sadie Hawkins Day. Created by the cartoonist Al Capp, the day celebrated where women and girls could marry their favorite partner by catching them in an annual race held in the small Appalachian village of Sadie Hawkins, KY. The cartoon became so popular that many college and high school students enjoyed holding an annual Sadie Hawkins Day dance to celebrate the tradition.

Of course every celebration requires food and drink to liven the spirits. Soup is a warm and filling choice for a chilly evening. So, I offer you a seasonal favorite for this coming Leap Year that can be enjoyed year-round—gumbo soup.

For vegans or vegetarians, merely eliminate the sausage, chicken and shrimp and replace with 3 lbs. of tofu cut into 1-inch square cubes you have marinated in 2 Tbsp oil and 1 Tbsp each of chipotle spices, smoked paprika and cumin.

imagesGumbo Soup with Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage, or Firm Tofu

Serves 4-6

8 Tbsp butter
⅓ cup flour
¼ cup vegetable oil
1  yellow onion, diced
6  ribs celery, diced
1  green bell pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 Tbsp chipotle seasoning
3 Tbsp filé spice
1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced into ½-inch rounds
½ cup parsley
1½ cup okra, cut into ½-inch rounds
1 14 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, whole, peeled and chopped
5-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 lbs. chicken breast and thighs, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 lb medium shrimp, butterflied, shelled, and vein removed
⅛ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼-½ tsp crushed red chile flakes
1 cup basmati rice, adding 2-3 cups broth or water

1. The first step is to make a thickener called “roux”, by melting butter in a small pan, over medium heat, and then adding flour. Stir often so that the mixture does not burn the bottom of the pan. Once the roux turns to a dark caramel color—8 to 10 minutes—remove from heat. Set aside, but stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat then add chopped onions, celery, green peppers and garlic. After 1-3 minutes, add chipotle and filé seasoning and bay leaves and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

3. While stirring, allow mixture to cook for a few more minutes so that the vegetables absorb the spices, then add sausage.

4. Next, add the chopped okra, tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock and chicken pieces. Turn the heat to medium high and then reduce to a low simmer for 45 minutes.

5. Finally, give your roux a quick stir, then add it to the pot and continue cooking at a simmer. After 10 minutes, add shrimp, Worcestershire sauce and crushed red pepper. Season to taste. Adding a spoonful of cooked rice is a nice addition but not required.

Chef Allan Zox

Send questions or your favorite recipes directly to: I look forward to hearing from you. Chef Alan


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