How do I even start when it comes to writing about Gumbo.
Gumbo is a hot topic here. It is easily our most recognized dish. From what I can tell it is made in every part of our wonderful State. One slight gust of wind, a 2-degree drop in weather or a drop of rain and the masses are declaring "Gumbo Weather." It isn’t amped up in the media - WE LOVE IT! Like that eternal love that burns in your soul. I can’t even count how many people have said they would want it to be their last meal.
Now how you make it, that is not agreed on. I have actually seen loud verbal arguments over whether there should be tomatoes in it, if okra should be an ingredient, is it alright to put sausage in seafood gumbo, thick or thin gumbo, is filé offensive or a necessary component, etc. Once I had a person comment that fish in gumbo was fine and I swear all of Acadiana lost their minds. The poor thing was from California so he got quite a Facebook beating for defending his beliefs. While we can never get the whole state to agree on how gumbo should be made. I can tell you, 99% will agree you shouldn’t mess with it too much. It's a simple dish and a thing of beauty that (not to be mean) doesn’t really need help from people thinking they are improving it. So many people like to tell me how they have improved Gumbo.
Once, while bartending, a gentleman from Indiana who had moved to New Orleans started to tell me how he had improved gumbo. First, he started by saying how he adds carrots. I started to feel the anger boiling up. Then he adds mushrooms. My eyes start to well up - how could you do this to my much-beloved dish. Then jalapeños. I got to be honest, I wasn’t too disturbed by this -I love all things spicy. So as I am starting to calm down he lays down the worst thing anyone has ever said to me (I may be overstating that a bit.) He adds chicken (ok), sausage, (ok), shrimp, (not feeling well), fish, (anger sharks are circling in my head), then he said it - the final words, TOFU! I was so shocked into silence. That’s huge y’all! I pretty much never shut up. I felt like someone stuck a knife in my heart. Why? Why would you do that to my first love? What kind of sick human being does this? I wanted to call the village and tell them “Gather your pitchforks and torches, we got a monster to run out of town.” The whole bar grew silent. Seems they thought I had a tendency to get riled up about things. I looked him the eyes and grabbed his beer. I walked slowly to the sink and as I poured it out told him, “I am sorry sir but you have offended every person in this room and my MawMaw is probably spinning in her grave, you can leave now.” He, of course, protested so I simply turned to the bar and asked: “Does anybody in here disagree with me?” They all shook their heads, no. You could see in their eyes they were as offended as me.
Now y’all may think I overreacted (something I never do) but you need to understand we hold Gumbo close to our heart. We may make different versions but there is a line you can’t cross. Gumbo is gumbo and stew is stew and the two shall never meet. If you want to see what I am talking about just watch all of Louisiana's reaction to Disney's gumbo video. The reactions to a roux-less gumbo with kale and quinoa were epic. Here, this sums up all of Louisiana that day.
This recipe is how I make gumbo. This is what I grew up with so this is my favorite way to have it. My gumbo is more about patience than multiple ingredients. Its actually a simple dish but taking the time to do things from scratch, I truly believe, makes a large difference in the end. Since it's so simple cutting corners can really affect its taste.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
One 4-pound chicken, rinsed and dried, cut into pieces
Vegetable scraps from diced veggies for the Gumbo or
1 onion, unpeeled, quartered
1 rib celery, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
2 quarts water, chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
I start out with a homemade stock. I try to do this a day before so it has time to really get a nice rich chicken stock.If you don’t have time just make sure your stock has at least an hour to simmer.
1. I start by dicing my veggies for the gumbo and put them in a baggie in the fridge to be used later.
2. Its pretty simple I throw in my scraps from the veggies, onion, bell pepper and celery into a stockpot, put the garlic and bay leaves in the pot and follow with a whole chicken in the stockpot then fill it with water till it covers the chicken. If you didn’t pre-prep your veggies just sub the amounts I put above.You don't have to use a whole chicken I just find it the most economical choice. I add a couple bay leaves and bring it to simmer. I traditionally just leave it on the stove for a couple hours and add water if it's reducing too much.
3. When your stock is done strain it and reserve the chicken. If you made it a day in advance refrigerate the stock and chicken. If not let the chicken cool and put the stock back on the stove and bring to a very gentle simmer.
**A shortcut that doesn’t really affect it is to throw all this in a crockpot on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours, if you want to put in the crockpot overnight it won’t hurt it. Just remember to turn it off in the morning. You do not want poultry sitting at room temp all day, Believe me, I will never live down the great turkey debacle of 2016( it was so bad I had to get my fiancee to dump it down the storm drain)
6 cups of chicken broth
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2-3 onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 - 1 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (recipe in blog)
1 1/2 pounds smoked sausage, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into half moons
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
Cooked white rice, for serving
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, for serving
1.Bring your stock to a simmer. (Some folks insist the stock must be cold if the roux is hot but I have never noticed a difference.) Now that you have your veggies prepared (don’t forget the garlic) and your stock is done its time for the most important part.
1. I have talked about making a Roux before. It can be a very daunting experience. This one is probably one of the most challenging a dark-dark Roux. Patience and believing in yourself is what it requires. First, you heat your oil in a heavy skillet( cast iron is the best) till its barely smoking, I use a medium-high heat but I am an old pro. If you're a little paranoid you can use any heat scale, the lower the heat the longer it will take but also the less chance of burning it.
2. Now as its heating up you better get ready to be strapped to the stove for awhile. Roux does not care about bathroom breaks, it's a selfish monster that way. Once your oil is heated add your flour and stir to combine, I use a whisk because it's easier but a wooden spoon will suffice. Now it's the waiting game. Continue cooking while constantly stirring, depending on your level of heat and what pan you use the process can take from 20-45 minutes. You will notice as it slowly changes color. I like a dark roux which makes a richer gumbo. Some people stop at the stage where its the color of Peanut butter, too light for me but not bad especially if you prefer a lighter gumbo. The next stage is the chocolate brown stage, now if you stop here you are okay. My favorite is right beyond this almost black but knows this, Your chances of burning past the chocolate stage are much higher. If you want a little work out for your heart try it. Right after the chocolate stage is when I start to sweat and I am convinced I'm going to burn it. I usually need to be talked off the ledge at this point and need a cheering squad to convince me to keep going. If you pull it off you feel like you won the gold medal, your cajun card is certified.
3. Once the roux is dark enough for your liking you add the veggies. This is my favorite part, oh that smell I want to do die with that being the last thing I smell. Keep cooking and stirring until the veggies start to wilt around 10 minutes.
4. Once done turn off the heat and slowly add large spoonfuls to the stock stirring till its all blended in.
5. Now just let it simmer for awhile I usually do at least an hour, it should start to thicken. Don’t worry about it thickening too much you can always add water.
6. Once it's thickened up, de-grease the gumbo by gently spooning grease off the top. Add sausage and cajun seasoning and cook for at least 30 minutes.
7. While the sausage cooks remove chicken from fridge and remove meat from the bone. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces and set aside.
8. De-grease one more time and 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, add chicken and let it heat through.
Ladle your gumbo over steamed rice and top with green onions and dig in. French bread is great to sop up the juices.
*We traditionally serve our gumbos with potato salad. Ill be sharing my potato salad recipe soon.
* I keep a bottle of hot sauce around because I like it extra spicy.