For Tasting Tucson, Chef Travis Peters crafted a loving ode to a Cajun classic made with ingredients you might find more easily in Southern Arizona.

From the kitchen in his downtown Tucson restaurant, The Delta, Peters shared that this Sonoran gumbo is a “fusion” love letter to both Louisiana and his hometown.

Peters imagines this is the type of dish he would make if he grew up in the 1800s in Louisiana, and needed to come to Tucson to start a business or maybe work on the railroad.

“I really missed my food, but I need to use the ingredients in Tucson,” Peters said.

Peters listed some of those native ingredients that Good Morning Tucson has tasted before, when highlighting the University of Arizona’s “Tasting Tomorrow” project.

They include chiltepin peppers and tepary beans. Even the protein source is a nod to the region’s history, when Spanish missionaries came to the Sonoran desert. “Father Kino came across… and introduced goat and lamb to Tucson,” Peters said, as he laid out each ingredient for the final dish. “We made a little lamb secca for it.”

Start with the base ingredients. “Our traditional Holy Trinity (of vegetables) is going to be green bell pepper, onion and then celery,” he said. As we donned our aprons to help slice the trinity, Peters said this recipe replaces green bell peppers with poblano peppers, as Peters put it, “to give it a local flair.”

With this medley of flavors, can we handle the spice? Chef Peters definitely thinks so. “For Tucson standards, we like it hot, we like it spicy out here; (but) nine times out of ten, it’s usually going to be kind of a mild, sort of medium heat…approachable for sure!”

Traditional gumbos incorporate okra, but to honor our desert climate, Peters picked something a little more prickly: nopal cactus pads. “When it cooks down, it doesn’t have that viscosity that it gives out first,” he said. “Same thing with okra. When we cook it down, it just releases and thickens the stew.”

Moving from preparation to the stove, Peters started putting another key component of gumbo together in the pot. “The heart and soul of a good gumbo is always the roux,” he said, “and we have a little saying here: ‘The darker the roux, the thinner the stew.'”

There was more room to highlight other local ingredients and recipes. Peters picked some bacon, pork belly, and Sonoran white wheat flour milled by Don Guerra and his team at Barrio Bread.

A word of advice from Peters: don’t walk too far away from the roux pot. “It can burn really easy and it’s one of those things that, if you scorch it a little bit, the whole thing’s done,” Peters said.

“We’re just going to slow cook this over low heat for a while. Check on every few minutes and stir it, but the color we’re going for is kind of a peanut butter color.”

Add the chiltepins, creole seasoning, chicken stock, mesquite smoked chicken, the lamb secca, and last but not least, a quintessential gumbo meat. “We have our andouille sausage that we get made here in town,” Peters said while dropping the morsels. “It’s smoked with some whiskey, then we have a little sherry wine that we like to put in there (to give it) a nice little sweet finish.”

The finished result was so good, Tasting Tucson’s main photographer grabbed the gumbo bowl for himself.

Here’s a complete recipe to try Travis’ Sonoran gumbo:

1st round (prepare the ‘unholy trinity’)

Dice yellow onions into small chunks Poblano peppers: slice, remove seeds and pith, then dice Dice celery into small chunks, but save stem base for the stock Mince several bunches of parsley

2nd Round (Build the gumbo roux)

Fat All-purpose flour Sonoran white wheat flour (addition) Black pepper Creole spice mix Chiltepin peppers, crushed Worcestershire sauce In large sauce pot, heat oil to medium high until it starts to ripple Whisk in flour and continue to whisk until you get a smooth consistency Avoid scorching by stirring continuously Once smooth, keep whisking until mix is a deep brown color (think dark peanut butter) Once you get that color, immediately take mix off heat Whisk in spices and fully incorporate Slowly, cautiously: Whisk in Worcestershire sauce, and keep whisking until mix has a smooth consistency Pour roux into large pan, cool for at least 30 minutes before finishing gumbo

3rd round (finishing the gumbo)

Sweat the gumbo vegetables in your large stock pot with hot oil Add 3 tablespoons of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of black pepper Once onions are translucent, de-glaze with sherry Add chicken and stock, bring to a boil and let roll for roughly 30 minutes Break up chicken with large whisk Whisk in roux and stir until fully incorporated, stir frequently until it comes back to a boil Roll boil for roughly 1 hour, stir frequently until soup becomes desired consistency Add sausages & continue to boil for 10 minutes Travis’ reminder: PAY ATTENTION AND STIR, STIR, STIR! When done, place in bowls or buckets to cool and refrigerate for leftovers