I claim a pretty mixed-bag of southern roots. I was born in Mississippi and raised in Georgia (spending large portions of my childhood summers in the Mississippi countryside). My mother was born in Texas and grew up between Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Her mother was born and raised in Louisiana, and her father was born and raised in Mississippi. My father’s people are strictly Mississippi as far as I know (although now we’re all scattered throughout the US). Needless to say, my heritage is southern, through and through.
This particular recipe hearkens back to my Louisiana decedents. It is a pretty even mixture of the Cajun and Creole versions as it uses both a brown roux and file powder as thickeners, and it has a tomato base. Sometimes we add shrimp, sometimes not (this version is completely sans seafood), but we always add andouille sausage for extra flavor – this year we’re using my house-made andouille and fresh turkey stock.
You can throw in pretty much anything you might have on hand, meat-wise. One year we added wild duck to the mix because my cousin had bagged a few on a recent hunting trip. When we are in Florida for the holiday (although it has been admittedly too long since we’ve gotten down there for Thanksgiving), we add lots of seafood. If you’ve got venison, toss it in there. The beauty of gumbo is that it’s a perfect vehicle for using up various bits of leftovers you might have lying around the fridge and freezer.
Now, I like okra in my gumbo, but my mother does not. As she will be enjoying the final product with us, we will not be adding okra to this pot. However, please feel free to add it to yours – it can only make it better (in my oh-so humble opinion).