Updated: Jan 11
To give you my gumbo recipe is to give you a piece of my soul, as it goes across South Louisiana. The gumbo I make isn't just a pot of soup, it's a a tangible time machine flinging me back to my childhood. I know I've got it right when my gumbo soup doesn't taste like I made it- it tastes like I'm five, in my grandmother's tiny kitchen with the door open to her garden and chicken coop. It smells like mossy winter air cut clean from the black pepper and garlic and Crystal hot sauce. When I get this gumbo right, it's dark and just a little thick and herby from file' powder stirred in at the last minute. It's my last meal. It's my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother distilled in tradition. It's a soup based in instinct and feeling and trust in the ingredients' limits that leaves a Cajun's French roots in the dust.
That's all super intimidating, I know. But it's ok. The gumbo you make can't taste like mine. You and I have different pots, sausages, even the water used to make stock tastes different. Just clear out your day, take your time, and don't stress too much. It is, after all, a pot of soup. Love and happiness season such dishes just as deeply as salt and pepper. Understanding goes a long way, too. The roux (equal parts fat and flour used to thicken a soup or sauce) is the 'scariest' part of gumbo. When we cook our gumbo roux to a dark chocolate brown, we're mimicking the base of a French onion soup- onions slowly smothered until dark and mushy and sweet and savory. You can certainly still keep your burner on low for a flour roux, but it'll take an hour or so. I turn the heat up a bit to get it done in 30 minutes, which can lead to a little smoke. If the smoke, the smell, or the texture of your roux makes you nervous, just turn down the heat and keep stirring.
Oh, you should also know that this makes around 3 1/2 quarts of soup. The leftovers are insanely good the next day and freeze beyond well. Pour 1 1/2 cups of cooled gumbo in a quart bag, then freeze flat. Dinner in an instant, and what a dinner it is. Serve with traditional white rice, French bread, even potato salad. Here's to you enjoying the process as much as the meal. Happy eating, y'all :)
Cajun-Style Chicken and Andoullie Sausage Gumbo
3/4 cup high-heat oil- canola, peanut, avocado, plus 2 Tablespoons
8 chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flout
2 medium or one very large onion
1 small green bell pepper
1 small red bell pepper
6 sticks celery
1 lb. high-quality andoullie sausage or smoked kielbasa (you want smokey, peppery, and fatty- not spicy), cut in small pieces
2 bay leaves
2 T Gradoux seasoning, or other Cajun seasoning
1 T black pepper (less if your Cajun seasoning is spicy)
3 Tablespoons (yes, 3 Tablespoons) minced garlic
3 quarts no-sodium chicken or turkey stock
Crystal hot sauce, or other mild, peppery sauce (Franks' Red Sauce, Texas Pete's,)
Parsley and green onion, chopped
File' powder (optional)
1. Prep the veggies:
-Chop the onion, bell pepper, and celery finely. Mince the garlic, keeping it separate from the other vegetables.
- Coarsely chop the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Pulse in the food processor to a confetti consistency,, transferring to a strainer to let the vegetable water drain off. Separately pulse the garlic in the food processor.
*The combination of finely chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery is often referred to as the trinity as a nod to our Catholic heritage. Back in the day, though, they'd be referred to as seasoning vegetables.
2. Build the Flavor :
Add the 2 tablespoons canola oil and chicken, skin side down, to a large, heavy pot (I love a good cast-
iron Lodge). Cook on medium heat until the fat is rendered out and the chicken skin is brown and crispy. Flip and cook for a few more minutes, just until the meat is brown on the outside (you're not worrying about cooking the chicken through right now).
3. It's Time to Make a Roux:
Add the 3/4 cup of oil to the pot. Allow to heat for a minute. Sprinkle a pinch of flour in. If it sizzles without smoking, your oil is hot enough. Add remaining flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Stir constantly until the flour is as dark as a beer bottle or dark chocolate. Be prepared for the roux to thicken, smoke, and smell a little like it might-just-maybe be burnt. It's normal, I promise, and as long as you're stirring constantly, it's not burnt. The smoking is ok as long as it's clearish, not blackish.
As soon as your roux is dark chocolate in color, begin to add your trinity a handful at a time. Add a teaspoon of salt and the bay leaves. Stir frequently, making sure nothing is sticking, until the onions are very translucent and the celery is hard to see in the roux mix. This will take a while, 10-15 minutes. Add the Gradoux or Cajun seasoning and sausage. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, just enough to keep things from sticking, 5 minutes or until the sausage fat has rendered out. Add the garlic and cook only 3 or 4 minutes. Garlic has sensitive feelings. Be gentle.
5. The Home Stretch:
Stir in the chicken stock a little at a time at first. Gradually add more at a time until all three quarts are incorporated. Return chicken and any juices to the pot. Add 2 or more tablespoons of Crystal sauce. Simmer on medium-low for an hour. Remove the chicken and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and bones, returning meat in uncut chunks back to the pot. Continue to simmer for another 3 hours (or more, but you already knew that about any soup). Don't reduce too much; gumbo is supposed to be more soup than stew.
6. Dress it Up:
When your gumbo is perfect, turn off the heat and let the pot rest. Make your long-grain white rice and heat up your French bread. Serve gumbo in a wide bowl with the rice to one side and the gumbo to the other. Top with parsley, green onion, and file' powder.