Mia X is a southern rap icon who made her name as part of Master P’s No Limit Records label in the ‘90s. An avid home cook in her hometown of New Orleans, she is preparing to release a cookbook and memoir—Things My Grandma Told Me, Things My Grandma Showed Me—full of recipes and wisdom she picked up while spending time in the kitchen with her mamaw. Follow her on Twitter (@TheRealMiaX), and check for the hashtag #TeamWhipDemPots.
The secret to a delicious gumbo is a beautiful, smooth roux. The roux is the first step to the best homemade gravy you’ve ever tasted. When I was growing up in my mother and grandmother’s kitchens, we never used gravy packs or ready-made gravies from cans and jars. It always started from the roux, which consist of meat drippings, butter or oil (we prefer butter), corn starch or flour, and water or broth.
After seafood or meat is cooked with onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, parsley, and all the other spices you love, the butter is melted in that same pot. Next, flour or cornstarch is added to the melted butter and everything is whipped together to form a smooth, golden-brown paste. Some people continue to cook this paste until it browns to their liking. That’s what mama and mamaw [grandma] did, but I cheat by adding a teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet [a browning and seasoning sauce] when I’m making gravy, and when I’m making gumbo I also add a tablespoon of filé [a spicy herb made from sassafras leaves].
Once the mixture is the perfect color, I slowly add water or broth, depending on what I’m making, and stir until smooth. The amount of water or broth determines how thick your gravy will be. Sauces are usually thicker than soups. Gumbo is considered a soup, although everyone prefers a not-too-watery, not-too-thick gumbo roux.
“You can’t keep up with a pussy or dick that ain’t attached to you,” mamaw would say, which would always stun people.
I make gumbo during the colder months, and whenever I do I have a house full patiently waiting to eat. Recently, I had a friend over who looked sad because everyone was having their bowls filled two and three times while raving and saluting me on my gumbo. I asked her, “Why did you turn down a chance to taste my gumbo?” She said, “It smells and looks so good, but I’m allergic to shellfish.” I really felt sorry for her, so I promised that I would make a meat-only gumbo just for her.
A couple of weeks later she called me to conte [a Creole word for gossip] about her love life. She found out that her girlfriend had been cheating after the other woman Facebook messaged her with all the illicit and raunchy details. I told her that I wish mamaw was still alive, because she would say things to her to make her laugh, cry, and cope. “You can’t keep up with a pussy or dick that ain’t attached to you,” mamaw would say, which would always stun people. When I told her this, my friend burst into laughter and said, “I get it!” I told her to come over and chat with me while I made her gumbo. We hung up with her saying that she was on her way and me heading to the kitchen.
I decided that I would make this meat gumbo with chicken, beef stew meat, gizzards, turkey necks, and smoked beef sausage. I grabbed all of my pots and ingredients from the pantry and fridge, washed my hands, and got to work. After all my seasonings are chopped, I pre-cook all of my meats make my roux, then add everything to the pot once my roux is at the desired consistency. Just as I was taking the turkey necks out of the oven, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and invited my sad-faced friend in. She followed me to the kitchen saying how good everything was smelling and that she couldn’t wait to eat gumbo for the first time.
Her family moved to New Orleans when she was nine and she discovered that she was allergic to shellfish at a crawfish boil after she ate a few and her face began to turn red, bump up, and itch. She told me it happened again when she ate shrimp and lobster. She sat at my table and I asked, “Ok chic, what’s the real?”
Next page: Tales of infidelity, and some wisdom from mamaw…
She took a deep breath and said, “Well Mia, you know all the shit I went through with my ex-husband. The cheating, the lying, the abuse, and games. So when I met her [the girlfriend], even though I had never even considered fucking with another woman, everything about us clicked and felt perfect. She has been solid—or so I thought—for the last year. But lately she has been blaming me for why we’re not going out, and fucking on her work hours.”
She paused for a second and said, “Hold up girl, I see the smoked sausage cooking, but what else am I smelling?”
“Turkey necks baked in onion, garlic, celery, parsley, and bay leaves. Also gizzards and stew meat cooking slow on the back burner,” I told her. “I just added chicken breast to the roux and I’m about to add all the other meats and get this gumbo to rolling, but back to your issue Miss Greedy.”
We both laughed, then her face fell again as she continued. “This bitch don’t wanna do nothing with me anymore! She even suggested that we un-friend each other on Facebook so we don’t get jealous and beef…talking ’bout she can’t control what people write on her wall or what they say to me!”
“So is she really cheating or could it be that this girl likes her and is trying to make you jealous?”
“Them hoes are fucking!”
Based on the way she described how they fucked, I know she ain’t lying!
She told me when, where, and how—based on the way she described how they fucked, I know she ain’t lying!
I looked at my friend as her eyes began to tear. I did feel sorry for her, but just like mamaw did with us when we had man trouble, I had to keep it real.
This is what I told her: “I remember when you met this chic. I remember how you blamed everything on a man. I remember you and I having a heated exchange when I said to you, ‘Girl, anybody can lie, cheat, beat, and play games with your ass.’ It’s never about gender, it’s about the character of people. Now here we are today, you going through the same shit that you went through with your ex-husband with your new woman. You thought I was hating on your lesbian situation, but I wasn’t. I like who you like. I was just trying to prepare you for today. People can be fucked up, not just men or women.”
She grabbed a few paper towels to wipe her tears; as I began to add all of my meats, the seasonings, and spices to my gumbo pot. I dropped in two big, fresh bay leaves, lowered the fire, gave my gumbo a stir, covered the pot, and sat at the table. My mamaw use to tell us, “Take dey word til dey break dey word,” and that was meant for everybody.
Next page: The restorative effects of gumbo…
When I told her this, my friend’s voice cracked with pain. “You are so right, Mia. When I got divorced and became lesbian I blamed men for everything and they couldn’t tell me shit, but I see a cheater can be straight or gay, doesn’t matter.”
“Look at it like this, chic. It takes two to cheat, be it man and woman, two men or two women. Just because you aren’t into men anymore shouldn’t have meant that you were suppose to vilify them. While you was so busy telling all of us how nasty, disgusting, and foul men were, you took your eye off your situation and in crept the next bitch. People cheat because they want to. My question to you is, what are you going to do? Do you still want to be with her knowing that she’s fucking someone else? Can you forgive her? Or is it time to move on?”
“I don’t know. A part of me wants to believe her because she’s saying that it won’t happen again, but so many things she says remind me of the bullshit my ex-husband said.”
“Well, mamaw told us to use our God-given common sense and then to pray on everything.”
Then I got up, stirred my gumbo, and put some rice in a bowl. I looked at her and said, “Mamaw used to also say that love don’t care who uses its name; nor does it care how people throw it around when they’re in the bed or the hot seat. What matters, though, is what the ones who say they love you, show you.”
She put her head on the table and I could tell thoughts were running through her mind like a confused and frantic lunatic.
Gumbo is a soul food, gifted to the Native Americans from the Africans slaves brought to New Orleans.
“We’ve all been through unstable points in our love life. We worry and ponder what to do, but like mamaw use to say, ‘You know when it’s solid; you know when it’s shaky; and you’ll know when it’s over.’”
I patted my friend on the back and told her to cheer up because whatever happens with the situation, it is what it’s gonna be. “Dry them tears, wash yo’ hands, and come look at this gumbo,” I said as I raised the lid on the pot. The smell was delightful, and as all of the tender meats soaked up the roux they looked as though they were all dancing together with the seasonings and spices when I stirred.
“Oooh Mia, I can’t wait to eat. That looks and smells so good—my issue is somewhere at the back of my head because my belly is growling.”
“You’re gonna be fine no matter what, and before you leave here, you’ll be full.”
I covered the pot and checked the rice and we chatted about other things until the gumbo was ready. I remember her face when she tasted her first spoonful. Her eyes closed and the smile that came after she swallowed was huge.
Gumbo is a soul food, gifted to the Native Americans from the Africans slaves brought to New Orleans. It’s delicious flavors feed and comfort your spirit. It’s the perfect soup for your cold days, your peaks and valleys.
Next page: The recipe for Mama Mia’s Just Meat Gumbo…
Mama Mia’s Just Meat Gumbo
Cooking time: 3-3½ hours
* 2 lbs of smoked sausage (your choice), cut in circles
* 1 pack of chicken gizzards
* 2 packs of smoked turkey necks
* 4 skinless chicken breast chopped into cubes
* 2 lbs of stew meat (your choice of pork, beef, or both)
* 3 fresh bay leaves
* 3 large onions, chopped fine
* 7 garlic cloves, chopped fine
* 1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
* 4 celery sticks, chopped fine
* 1/2 bush of fresh parsley leaves, chopped fine
* 2 teaspoons of dry thyme
* Non-stick pan spray (butter or olive oil flavored)
* 1 stick of butter
* 1/2 cup of flour or corn starch
* 1 tablespoon of filé
* 1 tablespoon of Crab Boil (if you’re not allergic to shellfish)
* 1 tablespoon of Kitchen Bouquet
* Creole seasoning
* Salt and pepper
* 1 table spoon of cayenne(optional)
* Large roasting or baking pan
* Large bowl
* Large pot
Hook it up:
I find that if you pre-cook everything before making your roux, your gumbo will cook faster. Preheat your oven to 385°F. Rinse your turkey necks and season them to your liking with salt pepper and Creole seasoning. Add two tablespoons of butter to your roasting or baking pan and sprinkle some of your chopped ingredients on top of your turkey necks. Add 1/4 cup of water, as well as the Crab Boil and a bay leaf, then cover your pan and bake for 1½ hours. In one of your pans, spray non-stick spray. On medium heat, add the chicken breast, salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning and sprinkle with some of the chopped seasonings, then cook for 15 minutes and place the chicken in your bowl. Spray non-stick spray into the pain again and add your smoked sausage; cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Once cooked, place sausage in your bowl with the chicken. Spray pan again and add your gizzards and stew meat; sprinkle with the rest of the chopped seasonings, salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning and cook over medium low heat for 1 hour. Place the meat in bowl once cooked. Do not wash your pan; add 1/4 cup of water to each pan and over medium meat whisk the pan scrapings and water mixture until smooth.
Making your roux:
In your large pot, at medium-low heat, melt the remainder of your butter. Add ½ cup of flour, filé, and Kitchen Bouquet, then whip with a wire brush until you have a smooth paste. Cook 5 minutes to allow the paste to darken. Add the juice and seasonings from your turkey necks and pan water, then whip until a gravy forms. The thickness of your roux is based on your preference. I usually add 2 additional cups of water and the other 2 bay leaves and cook for 10 minutes before adding all of the meats and seasonings. Once your pot is full of ingredients, cover and turn heat to medium-low. Allow everything to cook down together for an hour.