If you haven’t cooked fresh okra before, it’s easy. This unusual Southern favorite tastes mildly like asparagus and is an essential ingredient for making gumbo. It’s a new vegetable kids like to crunch. Substitute a pound of peeled shrimp and a can of crabmeat for the chicken and sausage, if you like. Use frozen okra when fresh is not available.
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut in bite-sized chunks
- ½ lb. chicken or pork sausage, sliced or crumbled
- 1 28-oz. can tomatoes in juice or puree
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or ¾ tsp. dried leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ to ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- Salt, optional
- ½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth
- 1 lb. fresh or 1 10-oz. box frozen cut okra
Some people shy away from okra because of its mucilaginous juice. Of several methods, what follows is the best preventative against a slimy texture. Wash and remove stem ends and any dry tips. Pat dry and cut in ½ inch slices. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium heat. Add okra slices in a single layer and cook one minute on each side, turning with a wooden spoon. Dry-fry your okra while you are preparing the rest of the dish or up to an hour ahead of time, setting cooked okra aside at room temperature on paper towels.
Warm olive oil in a dutch-oven or large heavy-bottomed skillet. Saute onions and peppers until lightly browned on the edges. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Put vegetables in a bowl and add the 2nd tablespoon of oil to the pan. Saute chicken chunks and sausage slices till lightly browned on all sides. Replace vegetables and add tomatoes and their liquid, thyme, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, adding wine or chicken broth as needed to keep mixture from becoming dry. Remove bay leaf and add okra. Simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, so that okra stays tender-crisp. Serve accompanied by or ladled over white rice.
For a quick seafood gumbo, omit the 2nd tablespoon of oil. Prepare vegetables with tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Place raw peeled shrimp, crabmeat and okra on top of sauce, cover and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Stir all ingredients together before serving.