Essentially a stew made with rice, gumbo is a hearty bowlful that tastes delectable with meat or without. From the African word for "okra," kigombo, traditional gumbo often uses okra as a base and thickener. Where many traditional rice dishes incorporate the broth, rice and other ingredients into a one-pot meal, the savory broth of gumbo is made separately. The cooked rice is added later, or the broth and meat are ladled over the rice.
Gumbo recipes often reflect the vegetable and meat offerings of a particular region. From Cajun gumbo served with andouille sausage to seafood gumbo overflowing with shrimp and oysters, gumbo is a winter favorite with roots that spread across South Carolina and Louisiana.
The three gumbo recipes below offer some variety in the basic ingredients, but there's no law against mixing and matching.