Special thanks to National Mango Board for sponsoring this Shrimp, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo with Mango recipe as a part of the #MeetYourMango campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.
Now that my kids are getting older, I’ve been thinking a lot about family traditions. When my children have their own families, I’d like them to look back at their childhood memories with love. I’d like them to be able to recall specific traditions from their memories and build their own with their families. I didn’t have too many in my own family. For holidays we would gather at my aunt’s house. On certain holidays, we’d have very specific meals, and Christmas dinner was always more important than whatever we had that morning. Other than that, there weren’t too many specific traditions in place, and there really weren’t specific meals that were passed down for generations. In the interest of tradition, I’ve placed a heavy amount of importance on my husband’s cultural heritage.
We make it a point as a family to create points of reference and build upon those. So we might take some of the recipes Mr. Harris grew up with and build on them with new, surprise ingredients or different cooking methods. For holidays, I like to create some of the more traditional meals he grew up with and add my own spin to it. Then, instead of the buffet style casual dinner, we’ve created a more traditional sit-down meal that is a lot like our own traditions intertwined.
With all of this in mind, I’ve created a traditional shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo, adding mango as a surprise ingredient. Not only are mangos a powerhouse nutritionally, they are also used in many cultures and in a variety of traditional recipes. Gumbo is a traditional comfort food with a good amount of heat to it, so I thought that adding sweet mango to it would not only build on the flavor, but also lend a great balance to the spiciness.
When I first met my husband I remember I would love to hear all of his stories about his family and his early years of life growing up. We met in our late 20s and we both already had children; so we had this thirst to get to know each other’s lives, but also our family’s history. Although we both shared in common the fact that we were only children, the differences in how we were raised really showed through with our extended families. He has many memories with grandparents, aunties and uncles and so many cousins. I would love to listen to his stories and memories and see how his eyes would light up when he spoke about his grandmothers.
Now that our littlest kids are getting older, I’m getting to hear those same stories once again, as they’re being told to our children. Both of Mr. Harris’ grandmothers have passed on, but their warmth, love and generosity is timeless as their stories continue to be told. I’ve shared quite a few memories and stories of Big Mama, Mr. Harris’ maternal grandmother, because I knew her and loved her dearly. However his paternal grandmother passed a few years before we came into each other’s lives, so I wasn’t fortunate enough to have met her. However, the many wonderful stories I have heard about her warm my heart, and I wish I had the pleasure to have known her.
Often when I’m preparing our own meals, I will ask Mr. Harris about his own memories of certain foods that were a comfort to him growing up. Dev and RoRo will listen intently and ask questions while they help stir, mix or chop ingredients with me. I love creating our own memories while learning about our family history. It really bridges the gap and my kids get to learn and experience their own cultural history.
Some of my husbands’ favorite memories growing up are centered on spending time at his grandmother’s house in Missouri. He speaks often about the wonder that was her home. It was custom built in the 60s with a converted basement that had a kitchen, plus two kitchens in the main part of the house. His grandmother was Creole and Puerto Rican. She was born in Mississippi; but her family was from Louisiana’s French Quarter, and the food she made reflected that. Mr. Harris would visit in summers and be outside raking leaves or watering his grandmother’s garden only to be served crawfish, gumbo, catfish, fried chicken or any other number of traditionally southern meals.
I’ve made it a point to learn how to recreate these meals for my own family so our children can get a taste of their history and have a point of reference of what dad is talking about when he tells his childhood stories. I wish I had met his grandmother E. She had the biggest heart and was a philanthropist in her community. She was all about community, and the fact that she also raised foster kids in addition to her own large family speaks about the kind of woman she was.
For many years I wanted to try my hand at making gumbo; but it’s one of those meals that can be a bit overwhelming, and I didn’t want to get it wrong. For years I would read how to make it in various cookbooks, learning about Cajun vs Creole versions or seafood vs meatier versions. Mr. Harris would tell me certain ingredients that his dear grandmothers would use like chicken, sausage and shrimp. So taking all of that into account I put together my best version of the dish, with a fresh little twist. In addition to using the trinity (celery, bell pepper and onion) and okra (skipping the file seasoning), I also added two mangos to the dish. What I love about mango is that it is an ingredient used by many cultures, so why not add it to a big pot of gumbo for some extra texture, color and sweetness? It turned out to be such a hit with my family and it really added to the depth of flavors. My gumbo is a bit spicy, so if you prefer it less spicy you can cut back on some of the cayenne pepper and hot pepper sauce, or add a bit more sugar (or another mango!).
My kiddos can be adventurous with spices, so they liked it. Depending on how much rice you add to each bowl it can also tame the spice a bit. I know that mango can be a bit tricky, especially when figuring out how to cut or slice it, so here’s a little video to help you out.
How To Cut a Mango:
Once the mango is cut and diced, just sauté it with the trinity before adding the okra. I decided to lightly sauté the okra to get rid of the stickiness that can be a turnoff for some with okra. The roux is probably the trickiest part. If you don’t have the heat high enough you can be stuck there stirring for upwards of 2-3 hours before getting it the deep, dark color you want, so try to watch the heat. It’s okay to turn it up and turn it down just a bit. As long as you don’t get any black flakes in the roux then it’s not scorched. You definitely want a dark roux for gumbo though. It really adds to the flavor and depth of the dish, and it’s just not the same without getting that deep, dark color!
Comfort food to Dev is soups and stews, so I knew that he would enjoy making a big pot of gumbo with me. He’s also the kid that chooses between 5 different hot sauces every day for dinner, so I knew that he could handle the spice in this. The mango really does add some depth and flavor to the dish too. Although a good pot of gumbo is so classic that sometimes it just doesn’t need to be messed with, and I may get some opinionated comments, but trust me. Try it!
Although a good pot of gumbo is truly a labor of love, it is so worth it in the end. This makes a lot of food, so be ready to save at least half of the pot for another rainy day. It’s definitely something that can be frozen and reheated at a later time, which is perfect for meal prep for our busy family! This is something we make on a Sunday morning to let it cook all day, and then we can eat it throughout the week or freeze in batches and reheat on chilly autumn evenings. Serve with prepared rice and maybe a wedge of cornbread for some delicious feasting that truly does warm your soul.
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon and ½ teaspoon salt, divided
- 1½ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 large mangos, peeled and diced
- 1 lb fresh okra, ends clipped and sliced
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup bacon drippings
- ¾ cup unsalted butter
- 1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced
- 2 quarts water
- 6 cubes beef bouillon
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
- ½ tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 (14 oz) can Ro*Tel tomatoes, don't drain
- 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 lbs. peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp
- white rice
- green onions
- Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a medium skillet with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter over medium heat.
- Once warmed and sizzling, add the pound of boneless and skinless chicken thighs. Add minced garlic and ½ teaspoon salt plus half teaspoon of pepper with ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika to both sides of chicken thighs. Brown all sides, then remove from heat and set aside.
- In the same pan, add another tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and bring the heat to medium. Add the celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic, and sauté until the onions begin to soften. Add the diced mango and sauté another minute, then add the okra. Continue to stir and sauté until the okra is no longer ropey (the insides of okra tend to be sticky and you will see it stick to the other vegetables until it's cooked through). Remove from heat.
- In a large stock pot or larger Dutch oven, create a roux with 1 cup flour, ¼ cup bacon fat, and ¾ cup butter. Whisk over medium-low heat until the roux is smooth, then continue to whisk over medium-low to medium heat. The roux will begin to thin and become more liquid, continue to whisk adjusting the heat as needed and ensuring there are no burnt spots. It will take about 45 minutes to an hour for the roux to become the color of dark chocolate, while whisking continuously. Once it has reached the desired color, remove from heat, while continuing to whisk and let it slightly cool.
- Add the sliced sausage while continuously whisking the roux, then the sautéed veggies. Add water and bouillon and stir consistently until blended together.
- Add sugar, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, tomatoes, tomato sauce and browned chicken thighs. Stir together well and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, lower to simmer, uncovered, for an hour. Stir every so often.
- Remove the chicken thighs and roughly shred them, then add back to the pot. Add Worcestershire sauce and stir. Continue to simmer for another 45 minutes.
- Add the uncooked shrimp about 5 minutes before you're ready to serve. Stir it in well and remove from heat once the shrimp turns pink and starts to curl.
- Serve with prepared white rice and garnish with sliced green onions and chopped parsley.
- Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 5 days, if any is left uneaten, freeze!
What are some of your soul warming family favorites?
I’d love to read your stories! You can find more delicious mango recipes and information and tips at Mango.org. Check out this video for mango selection and storing tips, in order to get the freshest, best tasting mangos!
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