With Mardi gras coming up, it seems like a good time to post a recipe for Gumbo.
Like pretty much any other kid who learned to cook in the 1980s, I learned a great deal from watching Cajun cooks like Paul Prudhomme and Justin Wilson on public television. Long before Emeril was yelling “Bam!”, they taught me about the holy trinity of celery, onions, and bell peppers, how to make a proper roux, and why gumbo just isn’t gumbo if it doesn’t include okra. I do not cook much Cajun food these days and I would never claim to be an expert, but a couple of times a year, particularly in the dark of a midwestern winter, a big bowl of spicy gumbo, dark and heady from a long cooked roux, is unmistakably satisfying.
The key to a good gumbo, other than the quality of its ingredients, is the roux. In their simplest form, roux are mixtures of flour and fat used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces. In the Cajun tradition, roux is not just a thickener. It is the base of the flavor. Whereas French cooks making a béchamel might cook their roux just until the flour had absorbed all the fat, Cajun cooks can labor over their pots for nearly an hour, stirring constantly until their roux is the color of dark chocolate, and the entire kitchen smells deeply of toasted grain.
I can’t and won’t claim that this is a highly authentic recipe, but other than the time spent making the roux, it’s straightforward and yields a delicious soup that’s perfect for a crowd on a cold early spring night.
Chicken and Sausage GumboCourse: Dinner, Southern CookingCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium
- For the Roux
½ cup flour
½ cup neutral oil
- For the Soup
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 large onion
2 ribs celery
1 lb andouille sausage
4 sprigs fresh thyme
8 cups chicken stock
1 lb okra, frozen or fresh
1 14 oz can peeled, diced tomatoes
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground black pepper
⅛ cup Louisiana-style hot sauce (do not use Tabasco)
- Prepare the Roux
- Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Prepare a roux by adding ½ cup flour and ½ cup neutral oil to an oven-proof pan and whisking to combine well.
- Cook, stirring every 30 minutes, until the roux has reached an even, very dark color – approximately the color of dark chocolate (about two hours).
- Make the Soup**
- While the roux is cooking, poach the chicken thighs in the chicken stock, cooking at a low simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour, or until the meat is easily separated from the bones.
- Remove the thighs from the stock, reserving the stock for the soup.
- Discard the bones and skin, and tear the meat into bite-sized chunks or shreds.
- Seed, trim, and dice peppers into a ¼-inch dice.
- Peel, trim, and dice the onion into a ¼-inch dice.
- Trim and slice celery into ¼-inch slices.
- Slice the andouille into ¼-inch slices.
- If using fresh okra, slice into ½ inch pieces, discarding the tips and stems.
- When the roux is ready, add it to a large soup pot over medium heat.
- Add the peppers, onion, and celery to the hot roux and sauté until the onions are translucent.
- Add 8 cups of chicken stock, including the double stock used to poach the chicken. Add 1 can peeled, diced tomatoes.
- Add cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, black pepper, and hot sauce, and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook at least 1 hour for flavors to fully combine.
- Add the sliced andouille, shredded chicken, and okra.
- Return to a simmer and cook another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Taste for seasoning, adding salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
- Serve over steamed, white rice with American-style French bread and Louisiana hot sauce.