Butternut Squash Gumbo

Creole cooking is a wonderful thing–you’ve got traditional Mediterranean influences (e.g. French, Spanish, Italian) strong, zesty southern elements (e.g. Carribean, American), and even African flavors. Its one of those styles of cooking that brings a whole lot of great stuff together to make something truly amazing. I wanted to take a classic Creole dish (gumbo) and see if I could spin it in a way that would fit my Thanksgiving menu by adding a bit of autumn to the mix (via butternut squash) as I thought it would be fun change from butternut squash soup.

Now for those of you haven’t had gumbo before, the first thing you need to do is correct this immediately. Seriously! Gumbo is almost stew like–thick, hearty, smoky, spicy, and full of a wide variety of things that’ll warm your bones. Some like to load their gumbo up with poultry (duck, chicken), others beef (veal, brisket), some pork (andouille sausage, hocks), others seafood (a whole variety of shellfish), or just a bunch of veggies. Its the kind of dish that really lends itself to being personalized. And then despite the color, gumbo is not something that’s all about the tomato–many versions won’t even include tomato! Rather, the true star of any gumbo: the stock.

So now, a note about stock. I can entirely understand that not everyone always bothers making their own stock, and that’s fine. Since gumbo however, is very largely about the stock (heck, read the ingredient list–nearly 12 cups of stock are used!), this is one of those occasions where you’ll really want to use a flavorful home-made stock as this will do amazing things for your final result. I used a bit of chicken stock, and since I didn’t have enough handy, I made a batch of smoked pork stock (inspired by a cabbage soup I’d seen a while back) a day ahead to top things off. I’d also considered making shrimp stock (simmer shrimp heads and shells in water for 30 minutes), but not all of my guests were seafood people, so maybe next time. The point is, you’ve got options!

The end result was incredibly tasty and so much better than I could have hoped for. While the butternut squash didn’t come through in as big a way as I would have liked, the smoky pork stock sure did! The andouille, the stock, the deeply colored roux, the bacon–the dark, smoky character was really something and made it really impressive (and well paired with the uplifting sweet flavor of the shrimp). I also was really happy with the texture: thick but not too thick. Aside from the chunky items in the gumbo, this thickness also came from the roux and the okra, two common gumbo flavorers (and thickeners).

As a whole, it tasted deep, nutty, caramelly, smoky, and sweet…and it was eaten in its entirety in record time. This should be a must try for everyone this winter!

  • Smoked Pork Stock
    • 7 cup water
    • ~1 lb smoked hocks
    • ~1 lb fresh neck bones
    • 2 celery stalks
    • 1 shallot
    • 1 carrot
  • 4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 strips bacon
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 red bell
  • 1 anaheim
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ~3 cups okra
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • ground chipotle
  • ground cayenne
  • fennel seeds
  • ground allspice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lb andouille sausage
  • 0.5-1 lb shrimp

Making the pork stock is quite simple. Fill a good sized pot with water and throw in the very coarsely chopped vegetables along with neck bones and smoked hocks. Warm this to a boil and then cover and drop to a gentle simmer for at least 3 hours. Periodically skim the scum off the surface.

Once the stock is done, strain the liquid and transfer to the fridge overnight (discard the solids, harvesting the meat from the bones for use in your gumbo). Tomorrow, there will be a layer of solidified fat on top of the stock–discard this. Now the stock is good to go!

So now armed with plenty of stock, begin by cooking the bacon, reserving the cooked bacon for later and the grease for cooking.

Chop the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, and rub it with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Roast this in a 400°F oven for about 50 minutes or until fork tender.

In the pan you ultimately intend to cook the gumbo in, make a roux. I used a big dutch oven. Simply heat up your oil and whisk in the flour. Whisk periodically and keep a close eye on it, cooking on medium heat for roughly 20 minutes until it takes on a peanut butter/caramel color. This will add an amazingly complex flavor and act as a thickener for the gumbo.

In another pan, you’ll want to cook the okra. Chop off the stem/head parts of the okra, and then cut long thin slivers and/or cross cuts, sautéing for 15-20 minutes (roughly same time as the roux–perfect!). This step is important because undercooked okra can have a very snot-like texture which will not be pleasant for anybody other than 3 year olds who might still be into that kind of thing.

And with those two pans going, you can get a third going for the vegetables. Somewhat finely chop up the celery, peppers, and pale parts of the leeks, sauteing for roughly 8 minutes, after which you should add minced garlic for an additional minute.

With all three pans done at the same time, now you should whisk the stock into the roux, beating until no chunks remain. Then, add in the okra and sauteed vegetables. Also stir in all of the remaining spices. Finally, scoop and puree the roasted butternut squash flesh, adding that into the pot.

At this point, warm things up to a gentle boil, and then drop to a gentle simmer. Let this simmer for at least 2 hours.

As the waiting game begins, dice up the sausage into bite-sized chunks and brown it in a pan. After cooking through (figure somewhere around 10 minutes), add it into the gumbo. Finally, the shrimp. Those need to be added towards the very end of cooking, or else they’ll turn to mush. So behead, shell, and devein them, adding 10 minutes prior to when you intend to take the gumbo off of the heat. Season to taste before serving.


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16 Responses to “Butternut Squash Gumbo”

  1. Kevin Says:

    That looks really tasty! Gumbo and okra have been on my to try list for far to long.

  2. Deeba Says:

    Love this ‘gumbo’ business Mike. WHOA…look at the long list of stuff that went into it. Must have been finger-licking good; just right for this season! Warm wishes for a good holiday season to you & your family Mike. Hope the Mom-to-be is doing great! Cheers

  3. Hélène Says:

    Beautiful! I love Gumbo. I wish you and your family a Merry Xmas.

  4. Joan Nova Says:

    I’m not a big fan of okra but if you say it helps create that luscious looking thick gumbo, I may have to reconsider. I’m actually drooling. Looks fabulous! Happy Holidays to you and yours.

  5. pam Says:

    You can see how rich this is! I love everything except the okra. Much to my husband’s disappoint my gumbo is always okraless.

  6. the caked crusader Says:

    Lovely presentation! Gumbo is something I have never eaten – there’s something about the name! The only okra I’ve ever had is in middle eastern cooking and I wasn’t a fan but who knows? This could just change my mind – I’m very fickle!

  7. grace Says:

    gumbo is great. i’m surprised i haven’t seen squash added before–it’s a great idea!

  8. mikky Says:

    i love gumbo… thanks for sharing this recipe… :)

  9. Ben Says:

    I love those delicious looking shrimp on top. Nice!

  10. Sam Says:

    I’ve never tried gumbo before but it sounds amazing!

  11. Peter Says:

    Every good gumbo starts off with getting the right coloured roux and this here is a fine gumbo. Nice twist with the squash.

  12. gaga Says:

    Oooh, that looks so creamy and tasty. I have some squash that I need to use up, maybe I’ll give this a try!

  13. Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Southern Inspired Thanksgiving from Mike's Table Says:

    […] the Southern theme. I thought it would be fun to try take this in a more Louisianian direction by crossing butternut squash with a Creole-styled gumbo. This soup relied on butternut squash (instead of tomato) and smoked pork stock as the base, and […]

  14. Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya from Mike's Table Says:

    […] that’s another story. Whatever the case, its all delicious to me. I’ve only come close to doing a Cajun/Creole dish before, borrowing some of the style/flavor, but not going all out. I felt long overdue to […]

  15. Vegetarian Gumbo « The Vegetarian Epicurean Says:

    […] was inspired to make this gumbo from a recipe from Mike’s Table Of course I adapted the recipe to be vegetarian, and used sweet potatoes instead of butternut […]

  16. RaShi Says:

    Im interested in trying this recipe for New Years dinner. How many will this feed?

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