Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard: A Conversation with Zella Palmer


Zella Palmer’s Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard, 1869–2019 is more than an ordinary cookbook; it is a testament to history and tradition. Palmer describes the heritage of Dillard University in the book, but the recipes themselves are also evidence of the richness of a growing and evolving culture. Matt Hackler, VP of Strategic Capacity Development for Feeding America, recently had the chance to discuss the book with Palmer. They consider the role of food in the community and culture of Dillard University, the ways food brings people together, and the function of food in times of crises. They also talk about a subject that is controversial across Louisiana: gumbo. Almost everyone in Louisiana has strong opinions on how gumbo should be made, in part because the dish is so treasured. Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard contains several gumbo recipes, including Palmer’s own seafood gumbo recipe. Watch their discussion below and then try Palmer’s personal take on the dish during the fall and coming winter months.


Zella Palmer's Seafood Gumbo


  • 10 pounds of medium sized fresh shrimp (Gulf)
  • 8 smoked sausage links, chopped
  • 8 hot sausage links, rolled into small meatballs
  • 2 pounds of cooked chicken
  • 5 chicken thighs, cooked, deboned, and chopped
  • 4 quarts of seafood stock
  • 1 large onion, finely minced
  • 2 green bell peppers, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, finely minced
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup of oil
  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • 5 whole fresh gumbo crabs
  • 1 cup of fresh chopped parsley
  • Favorite Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground filé



Devein and peel shrimp. Cook seasoned chicken thighs (without skin) in a little oil. Remove bones, skin, and chop in chunks. Cut crabs in half. Roll hot sausage links into bite size meatballs. Chop smoked sausage into bite sizes. Mince onion, bell peppers, and celery. Set aside. In a large stockpot, make a roux with butter or oil and flour until it turns to the color of a copper penny. Add Holy Trinity (chopped onion, bell peppers, and celery). Season with favorite seasoning. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add seafood stock. Bring the stock to a boil. In a pan, cook the hot sausage meatballs until cooked. Drain oil. Add the chopped smoked sausage and hot sausage to the stockpot. Add minced garlic. Cook for an hour. Season. Add crabs. Turn off the stove and add shrimp, bay leaf, and a teaspoon of filé. Cover. Serve with cooked rice or a dollop of potato salad.

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