During cooking, okra exudes a thick liquid that gives this hearty Cajun stew a sumptuous, silky texture; a little filé powder, made from dried sassafras leaves, further thickens and enriches it. But the backbone of this gumbo, and the source of its smoky flavor, is the roux made by toasting flour in hot oil until it is a deep red-brown.
This creamy, elegant dish (from New Orleans's Commander's Palace) can be made ahead of time and brought out as a first dinner course.
This is a traditional dish served at many a boucherie (cajun pig party) in southern Louisiana.
Any scraps of smoked meat can be used to flavor this spirited, Louisiana-influenced gumbo: chicken, pork, even spicy smoked sausage.