Gumbo Ya-Ya? Gumbo No-No

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All photos by Ray Hydrick

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans.  It was great to see the Crescent City back on her feet and thriving with spirit.  This trip was different from any other visit to New Orleans.  In the past, we spent our time perusing Bourbon Street and drinking a Huge Ass Beer (seriously there is a bar called that); but this trip I made use of my time there taking a culinary adventure.  We sought out not the touristy places, but ones where the locals eat.  We hit the jackpot.  I’ll share a few recipes in the weeks to come but I had to provide a classic – Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo. 

I have never made a gumbo, so being my first time I consulted several different recipes.  They all had the basic concept so I decided to wing it and do my own.  The few tips I can give you were ones I read but also experienced myself:

Roux – a roux is the combination of a fat (oil, butter, lard, etc.) and flour cooked over medium to low heat until it deepens in color.  For flour to deepen in color (one recipe said to cook it till it was the color of

5 minutes in and I'm bored already.

 chocolate, my thought was white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate?), you have to cook it slowly while stirring constantly!  This takes 25-45 minutes!  Okay, let me just get this out there – I am NOT a patient person.  Anyone that has ever ridden with me in a car knows this.  So for me to sit and stir slowly and constantly for 25-45 minutes, it’s like feeding a 5-year-old a chocolate bar and a Red Bull and asking them to sit still in Chuckie Cheese’s.   But the cardinal rule to making gumbo is do not burn the roux…so welcome to my personal hell…making roux. 

Filé – Filé is ground sassafras that helps thicken the gumbo.  It should only be added at the end to prevent making the gumbo gooey.

Okra – Ever boiled okra?  If so, you have experienced the nastiness of the goo.  It looks like ectoplasm in Ghost Busters.  But in gumbo, okra acts as a thickening agent and is a good thing; however, a bad thing is putting it in too early.  Imagine ectoplasm but with a brown hue.  This was my mistake.  The recipe has been corrected to prevent this. 

Let’s get started.

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise 1/2-inch thick pieces
4 pounds chicken thighs and breasts, skin removed
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup frozen cut okra
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
3 bay leaves
9 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 tablespoon file powder

In a large Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until well browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

I used andouille sausage. I likes it.

Season the chicken with salt & pepper and add in batches to the fat remaining in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, let cool, and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Browning my chicken.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the same Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 25 to 35 minutes, to make a dark brown roux.

The result of oil, flour, and an arm work out.

Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved sausage, salt, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Stirring, slowly add the chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

Add the reserved chicken and frozen okra to the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.

Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken thighs from the gumbo and place on a cutting board to cool slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred, discarding the bones and skin.

My sous chef (I will not mention his name), Ray, thought the chicken needed to be shredded to the texture of hair. Next time a little chunkier, please.

Return the meat to the gumbo and stir in the green onions, parsley, and filé powder.

Gumbo gets better after refrigerated overnight.  The spices get a better chance to do their magic.

The gumbo turned out well.  It was a little thick for my taste (because I added the okra too early – the recipe has been corrected though).  You should try this yummy dish on a cold night or for tailgating.  Yes, it has a 1/2 cup of oil but you lose the calories with the arm workout. 😉

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2 Responses to “Gumbo Ya-Ya? Gumbo No-No”

  1. Ray Says:

    Hey, you’re right. I got a little carried away while you weren’t looking. I agree, Chunked might work better. LOL. Hey, I’m just the cater waiter.

  2. Lorna Says:

    Ok, ready to try this receipe but can’t locate frozen okra. If I use fresh okra, any special instructions.

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