Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Louisiana cooking is a wonderful blend of African, European and Native American cultures. One of my favorites is gumbo. I especially enjoy making gumbo when life has been hectic and I need to just be quiet for a while. Days seem too filled with constant multi-tasking but, when you make a gumbo, life slows down for the evening. I love patient process of carefully making the roux. You can’t step away from the stove while making the roux or you risk ruining it so you have to set aside 20 to 30 minutes to just carefully stir the pot. It’s a great way to settle down and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Making roux is a simple process, but one I find absolutely fascinating. You take equal amounts of flour and fat (vegetable oil) and slowly cook them so the flour emulsifies throughout the oil and then begins to cook and slowly change color. This step is essential so that you do not have a “raw flour” taste in your gumbo. The darker the roux, the deeper the flavor. First you’ll see that the flour incorporates evenly throughout the oil, then after about 5 to 10 minutes, the color begins to change… first becoming light brown, then the color of peanut butter, then a milk chocolate color, and finally a deep dark brown. The roux becomes the base of your gumbo, not only thickening the stew but adding flavor as well.
Gumbo recipes are extremely varied. Some contain seafood, some use okra for thickening, others use meat, game and the classic Louisiana andouille sausage. My own recipe is an amalgam of many recipes I’ve tried over the years. I cheat by using a cooked rotisserie chicken, and I usually add a combination of andouille and chorizo sausages. Although most recipes cook the vegetables and meats right in the roux, I get a much better result when I sauté everything in a little oil before adding it to the pot.
Because you will be tied to the stove as you make the roux, it’s essential that you have “mise en place” – all other ingredients prepped before you begin. You can use store-bought Creole seasoning or make your own.* If you like spicy food, add the cayenne powder. You’ll also have the chance to add some “oomph” to the gumbo with a final splash of red or green Tabasco sauce.
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell pepper (I use a combination of red & green peppers)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced (or combination of andouille & chorizo)
½ cup flour
½ cup vegetable oil
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
3 quarts chicken stock
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning*
Filé powder (ground sassafras leaves)
Cayenne powder (optional)
1 cup rice
Red & green Tabasco sauce
Before you begin making the roux, in a frying pan slowly sauté the onion, celery and bell peppers in a little oil until they soften. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Put the vegetables into a bowl and set aside.
In the same pan, sauté the andouille sausages (and chorizo, if using) until the sausages begin to brown. If needed, add a little more oil to the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
In a large soup pot, make the roux. Over very low heat, add ½ cup vegetable oil and ½ cup flour. Stir with a wooden spoon or flat gravy whisk to blend well. Make sure you keep stirring the roux throughout the process so that none of the flour sticks to the pot and burns. If you begin to see little flecks of black in your roux it is beginning to burn and you will have to toss it out, clean the pan, and patiently begin again.
When your roux is a deep brown, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cooked vegetables, making sure they are all coated with the roux.
Put the sausages, chicken, bay leaves, creole seasoning and chicken stock in the pot. Stir well to combine, cover, and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
While the gumbo is cooking, make the rice. As directed, cook 1 cup rice in 2 cups water for 20 minutes.
Although many cooks add the filé powder directly to the gumbo, I prefer to sprinkle it on top when serving. If you continue to cook the gumbo after filé has been added it might cause the sauce to get stringy.
To serve, place a scoop of rice in the middle of a shallow bowl and pour the gumbo around. Sprinkle with a little filé powder – serve more on the side along with red and green Tabasco sauces.
3 tablespoons each: onion powder, garlic powder and ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons each: dried oregano, dried thyme and dried basil
6 tablespoons paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional – only use if you like spicy food)
This will make more seasoning than you need for this recipe – store in a covered container. The creole seasoning is very versatile and also tastes great on chicken, ribs or on grilled vegetables.