- Nothing gets the good times rollin’ like a steamin’ hot pot of homemade gumbo.
‘Tis the season to laissez le bon temps rouler, and nothing gets the good times rollin’ like a steamin’ hot pot of homemade gumbo. Chicken, sausage, seafood, spices, and a dark roux could make just about anyone do a Mardi Gras Mambo. That’s why Vicksburg’s Carnaval de Mardi Gras wouldn’t be complete without a Gumbo Cook-Off.
The Gumbo Cook-off is one of the many events that are part of Vicksburg’s Carnaval celebration, which takes place on Saturday, February 10th. The Gumbo Cook-off is in conjunction with Second Saturday, the Mardi Gras Parade, and the Mardi Gras Ball, all of which make up the great Mardi Gras Festival in downtown Vicksburg.
The proceeds of this event all go toward the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, which is responsible for managing Vicksburg’s historic sites as well as odes to the rich history, such as the Riverfront Murals. The proceeds may be for a great cause, but this is a cook-off, and the competition is fierce!
Local area restaurants come out and put forth their best pots of gumbo for judgment. And if that’s not enough competition, there’s also a City of Vicksburg vs. Warren County gumbo challenge; in 2023, it was Warren County that took home the gold. Palmer’s in Vicksburg had the best Seafood Gumbo, while SR-71 took home the prize for the best non-seafood gumbo. Riverwalk took home the most desired of all the titles: The Peoples’ Choice Award.
The Gumbo Cook-off is strict in its set up and regulations. Cooking must begin by 10am, with all fresh ingredients, no box mixes, and of course, a roux.
Now, gumbo is more than a soup. Some would argue that it’s not a soup at all and is its own dish. But what sets gumbo apart is the roux.
The roux in Southern and Cajun culture is a sacred element of a fine dish. Renowned New Orleans Chef John Folse, who was the executive chef of Seafood Revolution in Ridgeland (now Caet Wine Bar), demonstrated how to make the famous Cajun dish springboard:
A good roux needs oil, flour, the trinity and heat. The oil needs to be smoking at 375 degrees, when the flour is added in and browned, and then when it smokes again, add the “trinity”: diced onion, bellpepper, and celery.
Of course, that is all just the basics of a good gumbo. There’s seafood gumbo, which usually contains shrimp and/or oysters, and then non-seafood varieties which usually contain chicken and/or sausage, or some combination of them all. Another pro-tip: if you’re using seafood, get that good Gulf Coast seafood, especially with the shrimp and oysters.
If you want to try your hand at a great gumbo, but seafood isn’t really your thing, try this Mississippi Chicken and Sausage Gumbo from Food.Com, or take the seafood route with this classic recipe at Deep South Dish. And if you’re not able to choose between the proteins, you really don’t have to! Check out this one from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.