It's Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
time, and in its honor, we turn our focus on the festival's popular gumbo cooking contest, and, specifically, on how to win it. Three-time champ Parris Edwards with the Bayou Babes spills all her secrets.
"It's quite a story," Edwards says about how she got into competitive gumbo-cooking. Edward's father was one of the contest's first competitors. Edwards and her sisters would help him prep. He never won or placed.
Years later, "my sister and I decided to cook our own gumbo and compete against Dad. We won first prize," Edwards says.
Then Edwards decided to join her dad's team, doing her own cooking. She won again. Later, she and her sisters formed the Bayou Babes and took home first place again last year.
So what's her secret? Turns out, she has several to share.
"My trick is to take every ingredient and make it taste good," Edwards says. She marinates, batters, and fries chicken before putting it in the pot. She sautes the okra in butter until it's crispy (and no longer slimy).
Another hint is to consistently stir your roux until it's caramel color. Edwards says the roux is what separates gumbo from soup and is particularly important. "People burn their roux," she says. "I've have had so many [roux] that taste like hell."
Edwards also says that too much heat is a major problem. "Don't make it too hot, spicy," she says. She likes smoked paprika because it adds flavor without adding heat.
Good rice, none of that minute stuff, is essential. Why would you put in five to six hours making a gumbo and then put it over horrible rice?
Edwards forgoes file and uses one can of diced tomatoes. She thinks gumbo is about doing whatever you want. "People make their own rules for gumbo," she says.
And the very best way to eat gumbo, Edwards says, "is with a big bowl and a big spoon."