I consider gumbo to be something of a white whale in the culinary world. I am also fairly confident that I have a long way to go before I truly master it, but this gumbo I made tonight is pretty darn amazing all the same. It’s thick and filling, with just a hint of heat. I know many people would say it would need to be hotter but we don’t do heat well in this household. The Cajun spice had all the heat we needed, thanks.
Also, I didn’t add okra, and I don’t have any file powder. I tried to find some in my local grocery store here in Cold Lake and….well, they didn’t have any. So I tried to look up a recipe to make my own and…I definitely don’t have the required ingredients. So some may say that what I made tonight isn’t a true gumbo and to that I say: I don’t care. It was delicious and ever so satisfying.
The first time I ever tried gumbo was, believe it or not, at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland. My sister and I have been to Disneyland multiple times, so many times that we’ve lost count, and every time we always make sure to schedule a lunch at the Blue Bayou. You have to get there first thing in the morning and stand in line to get a reservation (and when you do, you ask for a water front table. It’s very important), and then we go and ride some rides and dream about lunch until we can go and eat. And we always make sure we get the gumbo. It was like pure heaven the first time I tried it. Thick and rich, the flavours danced a syncopated rhythm with every spoonful. I dream about that gumbo some times.
And thus my quest to learn how to make gumbo began.
Gumbo is a comfort food. A family food. Food you spend the day making, pouring in love with every spice, carefully watching the roux to get it to exactly the right colour without burning it, methodically chopping vegetables and sausage. It takes time and patience to make it, but it is so worth the wait.
In my past attempts, I was wilful and stubborn and the recipes always say to serve it hot over white rice and I would stupidly just add the rice to the gumbo and let it cook in the broth. Yes, feel free to gasp. Now that I’ve done it this way, I’ll never go back, believe me.
I also used to use homemade chicken broth where I left the chicken in, so there wasn’t very much chicken in the gumbo and what was there was stringy and shredded. I’ve learned my lesson, and while I still use homemade chicken broth, this time I used chicken thighs that I chopped into bite size pieces and browned slightly in the grease left over from the sausage. It is so, so much better.
If you like seafood in your gumbo, I’ll let you know when to add it to this recipe. My husband calls shrimp “The cockroach of the sea”, so you can see how popular they are around here. I know they would make a tasty addition if you were so inclined.
Also, I used Kielbasa sausage, because that is what was on hand at my grocery store. Traditionally Andoullie sausage is used, but I found the kielbasa to have a lovely bacon flavour.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Prep: 20 min Cook:1.5 hours
For the roux:
- 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp flour
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 lb cured sausage, Kielbasa or Andoullie
- 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, chopped in bite size pieces
- 4 cups chicken stock, homemade
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 sweet bells peppers, any colour, chopped
- 3-4 celery stalks, chopped
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced (reserve dark green parts for garnish, white and light green parts to go in gumbo)
- 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Long grain white rice, cooked
- Prep your meats and vegetables. Its important to have these ready when the roux is done because the roux can be easily ruined if it cooks too long.
- In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium-high heat (if your sausage is lean, add a bit of oil to the skillet to keep from scorching). Transfer sausage to a plate.
- Generously sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and Cajun spice and brown lightly in the remaining sausage grease, adding additional oil again if needed. Do not crowd the pan. Don’t cook completely; transfer to plate with sausage when lightly browned on the outside.
- In a large stew pot, cook the flour and vegetable oil over medium-low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until roux become smooth and darkens in colour to a rich brown, about 10-20 minutes. **It’s important to be attentive to the roux throughout this process: if you smell the flour burning, lower the heat; if you see black flecks in the roux, it’s burnt and you need to throw it out and start again.** When the roux reaches the right colour, add in chopped onion, bell pepper and celery and turn off the heat. Keep stirring until the roux has cooled down.
- Add stock, meats (with juices on plate), white and pale green scallions, garlic, and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cook for another 30 minutes, partially covered. Taste and adjust seasonings, and add seafood now if using. Remove lid and simmer another 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings once more.
- Serve hot over rice, garnish with dark green scallions and your favourite hot sauce if desired. Enjoy!!