JJ Johnson's Tips For The Best Gumbo - Exclusive

Ready to make your next gumbo the best gumbo ever? At the Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Fest's Jerk Jam, we chatted with chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author (of "The Simple Art of Rice") JJ Johnson, who bestowed upon us excellent tips for making the best gumbo at home. "Gumbo is all about the roux. I take mine to milk chocolate, but you can take it in red; you can take it to many different places," Johnson explained of the dish's hue. We agree with Johnson's tip about roux, which is the comforting and flavorful star of our shrimp and okra gumbo recipe.

Johnson chimed in upon hearing us mention the okra in our shrimp gumbo, saying, "If you put okra in the gumbo, you know it comes from Mississippi. I have a Mississippi gumbo in my cookbook." In gumbo, okra thickens the roux and adds fiber and deliciousness. For this reason, okra shines amongst the other veggies in our crockpot chicken gumbo recipe

Okra and little dried shrimp make for the best gumbo

We dove deeper to get more words of wisdom from JJ Johnson about the best homemade gumbo. When asked if he likes to add sausage to his gumbo, his answer was no and we raised our eyebrows. "I do dried shrimp," he revealed, intriguing us. He added that when he traveled to Ghana, he learned to incorporate dried shrimp into gumbo from making okra stew. Delicious!

As Johnson emphasized, he prefers "the little guys" as opposed to big shrimp. Little dried shrimp are packed with a subtle sweetness and a whole lot of umami. Like how you can amplify your savory dishes with shrimp paste, which is often made from dried shrimp, you can intensify the flavors of your gumbo by adding tiny dried shrimp. This flavor addition can be a little intense in stews and gumbo, and that's where the okra kicks in as a balancer. 

The next time you make gumbo, remember these tips from Johnson. But also, don't forget that what tastes best is subjective, and the journey to the perfect bowl of gumbo is as unique as our individual palates.