Saturday, June 24, 2006

Gumbo Ya-Ya

Here's a bit of New Orleans to warm the chilly parts of Scotland.

This one's for Stuart, the Bearded Wonder.

Gumbo purists insist that true gumbo contain okra, and I normally stand with them. However, this recipe does not call for the divine veg yet is still so authentic it'll have you dancing second line and calling your neighbor Boudreau.

I warn you, this is a lot of work and just reading the ingredients'll send you into cardiac shock, but the work and the fat make this a true championship gumbo. I've tried making a lower fat version using skinned chicken breasts, and while my guests raved I said, fie on low fat and swore it would never sully my cast iron skillet again.

So here we go:

3-lb. chicken cut into pieces
Garlic powder
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 ¼ cups flour
Vegetable oil for deep frying
7 cups chicken broth
½ lb. smoked sausage (andouille if you like it hot, kielbasa if you like it milder. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you like.)
3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Cut excess fat off the chicken parts, rub the chicken with a light dusting of garlic powder, salt and cayenne and let sit at room temp for 30 minutes. If you use a lot of cayenne, this will be very hot, so I use a light hand when I know those I'm serving are sensitive to heat. I also use a light hand with the salt so it doesn't overpower the flavors.

2. Combine the flour, a pinch of salt, ½ tsp of garlic powder, and ½ tsp (or less) cayenne in plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and shake until well coated.
Reserve ½ cup of the flour mix.

3. In a large skillet, get 1 ½ inches of the oil very hot and fry the chicken until the crust is brown on both sides and the meat is cooked. This should take 5 to 8 minutes per side. Don’t crowd the chicken, or add so many pieces that you lower the temp of the oil. If you have to, fry in batches. Drain on the Book section of the Times Picayune (or paper towel).

4. Pour hot oil into a Pyrex glass measuring cup, leaving as many brown bits in the skillet as you can. Scrape the pan with a whisk to get the brown bits unstuck and then return ½ cup of the oil to the skillet.

5. Place the skillet over high heat and when oil is hot, gradually whisk in the ½ cup of the reserved flour mix. Stir constantly. This is called making a roux and it is the heart of all gumbo. In 3 to 4 minutes the roux will turn a dark red or brown color. When it does, remove from heat and stir in the onion, pepper, and celery.

6. Return the skillet to low heat and cook until veggies are tender.

7. Place broth in a big pot and bring to a boil. Stir in, spoon by spoon, the roux mixture until it’s dissolved. Return to a boil, stirring often.

8. Add sausage and garlic. Reduce heat to a simmer for 45 minutes.

9. While the broth is simmering, bone the chicken and cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. When the broth is done, stir in the chicken, heat through and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice. Throw your hat in the fire. You're not going anywhere for a while.

Oh, yeah.


angie said...

Mmmm...gumbo. Have to agree re okra, though. Gotta have it. And the low fat chicken breast thing is damn near sacrilege! Of course, the real secret to gumbo is making a good roux. My first attempts way back when were pretty scary - not to mention completely inedible.

Thes LA posts do my transplanted southern heart good. Thanks!

Stephen Blackmoore said...

You are a god, Mr. Terrenoire. I think I'll be making up a batch of this soon.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Copied, pasted into Word and printed out. Will try it soon. The only time I've had gumbo, it was from a boxed kit.

Barb Winters said...

oh David, good southern soul-spirit: This looks like a little taste of heaven. I like authenticity, but frankly, okra holds no sway over my gustatory requirements. I grew some once, and the best comment I have about it is that if left unattended it grows to a density which would made fine insulation material. You probably wouldn't even have to bug-treat it.

I'll send you my chili recipe. Promise.

Barb Winters

Stuart MacBride said...

Bwaha! Excellent Mr T, I shall be trying this as soon as we're off this half-arsed low-carb diet thing we're on at the moment. I have to get pretty to fin into my kilt for the Daggers this week.

After that: sod the diet, I'm havin' gumbo!

guitarzan said...

I love gumbo!
BTW- We played the Rum Boogie Cafe in Memphis...I tell ya the story at the Bayou!

Sara said...

I've actually never cooked anything, ever, so I probably shouldn't talk, but I feel compelled to point out that sometimes down here people add a powder called file (there should be an accent over that last e) to gumbo, in place of okra, as a thickener. I think it's ground sassafras root, but I'm not sure. David, I bet you know what it really is.

David Terrenoire said...


You are correct, it is ground sassafras, and yes, I have some in my cupboard. Next time I make this recipe, I might try a little, see what happens.

That's the true joy of cooking - no rules.