When Mardi Gras rolls around, I think of three dishes: King Cake, Jambalaya, and today’s meal: gumbo. If you’ve never had a good gumbo, you’re missing out–it is one of those quintessential Cajun/Creole stews that every chef can put their own personal touch on. The one commonality across them all is that it will keep you going during the winter months being so rich and hearty.
In this particular rendition, I chose a classic combo: chicken and andouille sausage (compared to a lighter, butternut squash-centric version I did in the past).
A whole chicken is poached to make a fresh batch of stock, then shredded, strongly spiced, fried, and combined with fried, smoky andouille sausage. The stew is thickened with both okra and a nutty, smoky, milk chocolate colored roux. Simmered with a mix of some classic Creole vegetables and spices yields an incredibly intense stew that tastes incredible. The gumbo takes on a nice, almost velvety texture with how thick it becomes–rich, smoky, spicy, full-bodied in flavor which seems surprisingly complex for how little goes into it ingredient-wise.
This was adapted from this recipe.
- Chicken and Stock
- 1 whole chicken (I used a ~3.5 lb stewing hen)
- 1 carrot
- 1 rib celery
- 1 shallot
- 10 peppercorns
- 2 bay leaf
- handful fresh thyme
- water (enough to cover–aim for a bit more than 12 cups)
- 2 cups oil (whatever you prefer–I used a mix of ghee and vegetable oil)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp Creole season mix
- 1 lb Andouille Smoked Sausage (sliced in 1/4 in. slices)
- 3 shallots
- 1 green bell pepper
- 4 ribs celery
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1 lb okra
- 16 oz can tomatoes
- ground chipotle
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 tbs worcestershire sauce
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
Begin by cooking the chicken and stock (If you already make your own chicken stock and have 12 cups handy, feel free to skip this step–you can just break down the bird, spice it (more on that later), and brown it on all sides). Gumbo is in a big way, about the stock, so this is one of those occasions where I would strongly discourage the use of canned stock.
So in a large pot, add the chicken, coarsely chopped stock ingredients, and water. Raise to a boil and then drop to a simmer for an hour, skimming the scum off of the surface periodically. Once time is up, remove the bird, let cool for a few minutes, and then shred the meat. Set the shredded chicken aside for now.
Throw all of the remains (skin, bones, gizzards, etc) back into the pot to continue simmering for at least an hour further. Then, strain this mixture, discard the solids, and set your chicken stock aside.
Now, mix the creole seasoning and half of the flour (1 cup) in a bowl. Dredge the chicken in this. Then, heat up half of the oil (1 cup), and fry the chicken (enough to brown the outside, so ~2 minutes per side). Set the chicken aside.
Now, over medium heat, add the remaining cup of oil to the pot and beat in the flour (including any leftovers from dredging the chicken). At this point, you want to make a milk chocolate colored roux, so stir somewhat regularly and keep a close eye, since the milk chocolate color phase can very quickly change to the burnt phase. This can take a good while (15-30 minutes).
Now, add the finely chopped celery, pepper, and shallot to the pot, cooking for about 10 minutes. Add the finely minced garlic for a minute or two further, after which, you should add the chopped andouille (bite-sized chunks), cooking for another 10 minutes.
At this point, you should (carefully) pour in the stock and deglaze the pot. Beat the contents of the pot (a whisk might come in handy) to dissolve the roux into the liquid (you don’t want big chunks). Then, stir in the chipotle, cayenne, worcestershire, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato. Raise to a boil, add the chicken back into the pot, and drop the heat to medium.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, you’ll want to cook the okra. Dice it up into smallish cross-sections and fry in ~1/4 cup of oil for roughly 20 minutes. You want to cook the sliminess out but avoid burning the okra. Once this is done cooking, add it to the simmering gumbo, raise to a boil, and then drop the heat to medium-low, simmering for 3 hours (skim and surface fat off occasionally) further until nicely thickened and smelling more seductive than you can resist digging into.
Serve over some white rice with a good bit of crusty French bread. Enjoy!