Okra is a prized ingredient in Louisiana, particularly for gumbo, where it lends an earthy flavor and serves as a natural thickening agent. Since the fuzzy green pod's growing season is limited to the spring through the fall, resourceful home cooks preserve the vegetable in a variety of ways. Tina Hensgens, who works at the Falcon Rice Mill in Crowley, Louisiana, smothers her freshly picked okra with tomatoes in the summer, and freezes large batches of it so she and her husband can enjoy it year-round.
- 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 slices smoked bacon, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 3 lb. okra, trimmed and sliced 1/2" thick
- 1 cup chicken stock or water
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Melt 2 tbsp. butter in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Cook bacon until fat is rendered, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, onion, and celery; cook until golden, 10-12 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender, 1–1 1⁄2 hours.