Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

27 Feb

Gumbo sticks to your ribs better than any other soup ever. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Alright friends, this time, I’m managing to make my weekly post quota a whole two weeks in a row! Gumbo is one of my all-time favorite foods, and it’s a lot of fun to make. Also, the moment that you dump your cajun trinity into the roux and it sizzles is my all-time favorite smell in the world. Yes, I’m aware I have an oddly specific all-time favorite smell.

Anyways, we had an awesome luncheon at the church where I’m an intern after service, and I made this gumbo. It went over pretty well, but I was amazed how few yankees have ever had gumbo! It’s not that hard to make (other than roux, but it’s more intimidating than it is difficult), and is a great way to get rid of extra stuff sitting in your fridge. So let’s get on to that gumbo. Also, this is a big recipe, you can definitely scale it down for, you know, groups smaller than 30-40 people.

Stuff

4 lbs. chicken (I used boneless skinless thighs, because dark meat is the best.)

Cooking in the church's big, new industrial kitchen was way nicer than cooking in the kitchenette in my apartment.

3 lbs. andouille sausage (any smoked link sausage will do, andouille is just the most authentic cajun one)

3 large onions

3 large green bell peppers

7-8 stalks of celery

10 cloves of garlic

2 lbs okra

1 bunch parsley, chopped

2 T. fresh thyme, chopped

3 T. cajun seasoning

1 T. cayenne pepper

3 bay leaves

4 oz. chicken base

1 c. vegetable oil

1 1/2 c. flour

Steps

Mmm....chopped veggies.

I was cooking on a pretty tight schedule, so I made this gumbo faster than normal. However, it was the best chicken and sausage gumbo I’ve ever made, so maybe that was a good thing. First, you have to cut up your cajun trinity.

The traditional French trinity of vegetables is onions, carrots and celery. The French Canadians that moved to Louisiana modified their French methods, substituting bell peppers for the carrots. The inclusion of these three vegetables in the base of most cajun and creole foods adds the distinct flavor that makes it all so good. So. Good.

Chop up the onions, celery and bell peppers. I’ve already taught you how to cut onions, so we’ll move on to the celery and bell peppers. Celery is pretty easy to cut up, you just, you know, cut it. Sometimes with bigger stalks you’ll have to do more than just cut across, do this by putting some slices parallel with the stalk through the thickest part of the celery, then just cut them up in thin slices. Celery breaks down quickly when you cook it, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Bell peppers actually take some work and are a little counter-intuitive the first time you cut them, so I made a handy diagram:

Chop! That! Bell Pepper!

Okay, now your vegetables are cut up. Smash your 10 cloves of garlic and throw them in with the veggies, and set this aside while you make yourself some roux. Before you make your roux, remember one thing: it is not as hard as you think it is. People are all so scared to make roux, but if you’re paying attention it’s not particularly difficult, I promise.

Here it is right after the flour was added. Make sure you stir all the lumps out, but that will happen anyways since you will be stirring for many units of time.

If you read that and you’re confused, either you have been making roux for a long time and also don’t buy the hype, or you are saying, “Why does he keep using the word roux, what in the world is a roux, and how do you pronounce it??”

A roux (pronounced rue) is a basic gravy and one of those French holdovers in Louisiana cooking. Basically, you’re browning flour in oil in approximately equal parts. I guess equal parts are maybe supposed to be by weight, or something, because by volume I always end up using more flour than oil.

Put a big, huge pot on medium-high heat and put the oil into it. After it gets warm, dump the flour into the pot, too. I used a whisk this time, a lot of salty vets of the Cajun world will tell you that you have to stir roux with a wood spoon. I usually take their advice, because they’re saltier than I am. If you don’t like wooden spoons or, like me, you didn’t have one, a whisk works well too. The hardest part of making roux is that you have to stand in front of the stove for 10-15 minutes stirring almost constantly. NEVER let roux sit untended for more than 20 or 30 seconds or you will be making burned flour instead of roux.

This is the roux right before I added the vegetables. At this point, things move fast, I was scared to pause long enough to take a picture even.

A lot of people measure the length of time it takes to make roux by the number of beers they drink while it’s cooking. Because I was at a church and it was 9 a.m., I measured how long the roux took by looking at it. Good gumbo roux is a two beer roux, which means it’s a very dark roux, toeing the line between dark and burnt, even. The color you are looking for, as the picture tries to show, is chocolate brown. Somewhere closer to milk chocolate than dark chocolate. However, if you cross from dark chocolate to black, throw out what you have made, for it is burnt and will taste awful.

The aroma is intoxicating. No but really, so good.

You will probably be concerned at some point that nothing seems to be happening even though the flame is on and you are stirring. However, once the color of the roux really starts to change, it will change FAST. I cannot over-ephasize how quickly you’ll need to work once you hit that magic chocolate point. When you get there, quickly grab the vegetables and throw them into the pot in order to release that magical, magical smell that I was talking about earlier. Seriously, if they could bottle that I would wear it as cologne every day and not care what everybody else thought. Stir the veggies in quickly, then add almost a gallon and a half of water. Turn the heat up and bring everything up to a boil. As you cook, taste for salt level, and add water if things are too salty. Remember that your sausage will make everything saltier, too; that’s why there’s no salt in this recipe.

Once all your veggies are in the pot, go ahead and add all your herbs and spices including your chicken base. I had never used chicken base before, only bullion and broth or stock; chicken base is super, super good, I’m now a believer. Obviously, you could use bullion or stock instead of water if that’s what you had and or wanted to use, but, like I said earlier, this is definitely the best chicken and sausage gumbo I have ever made.

Cuttin' chicken.

Let this mixture cook for like an hour while you prep everything else and, if you work at a church, go to the first half of the worship service and give the “words of liberation and grace.” Cut up your chicken into one inch cubes, slice your sausage into rounds, and set them aside.

Throw the chicken into the pot, but hold off on the sausage for awhile. Smoked sausages like andouille come fully cooked, and you want the sausage to retain some of the sausageness, snap and flavor. After the chicken has cooked for about ten minutes, add the sausage and prep your okra.

Some people don’t like okra. When people say that, sometimes I have to quench the desire to shoot back, “Well I don’t like you.” After I escape this tendency, I explain that, for stews like gumbo, a thickener like okra helps to make sure that the broth has the proper consistency and that some of the extra fat is absorbed.

Sorry it's a little out of focus, I took all these pictures with my iPhone.

Rinse the okra thoroughly, because sometimes it is very dirty. Cut the okra into round slices, and throw the caps away. Keep the bottom tips though, because they will quickly dissolve into thickener.

Add the okra to the gumbo pot. Stir it occasionally for 15-20 minutes, and then you will pretty much be ready to serve the okra. I made a hotel pan full of rice in the oven while I was cooking the okra, because you traditionally serve gumbo over rice, piping hot. Gumbo also keeps really well, the flavors keep on mixing and deepening over the course of a few days. The two things I did not have for this gumbo are file powder, which you serve with the gumbo, and crusty French bread, because I forgot to buy it. Have I mentioned I love gumbo? Man, I love gumbo. This is a little bit spicy a recipe for people who like bland foods, you could probably cut the cayenne down quite a bit if you do not like spicy food.

The gumbo, sitting on rice, being awesome.

Let’s eat!

–N

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One Response to “Chicken and Sausage Gumbo”

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  1. Review: Bourbon Street Bangkok | The Thailand blog - 28 June 2012

    […] to pass on the oyster shooter, but I did select a few classic New Orleans favourites — crab gumbo soup (210 baht), andoullie sausage jambalaya (210 baht), boiled shrimp (195 baht) and corn bread (50 […]

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