Although I’m from New Orleans and spent half my childhood there, I was never a big gumbo fan when I was a kid. I have a vivid memory of sitting at the children’s table (which was placed in the garage, I swear!) during a party at our house in Pearl River with my older cousins who had me convinced that the okra seeds in the seafood gumbo were actually crab eye. The whole crab eye thing put me off gumbo for many years, but I’ve come to realize that I’m just not all that smitten with seafood gumbo.
(Note: If she’s reading this, I am told that my mother makes a fantastic seafood gumbo. I appreciate her gumbo, but it doesn’t change the fact that seafood gumbo just doesn’t do it for me. Plus, I’m a lazy eater, and if I’m eating something that’s served in a bowl, I just want to be able to eat it with a spoon without thinking about it too hard; having to pause mid-bowl to dig the meat out of a crab claw leaves me cold. Sorry, mom! I love you!)
I do, however, love sausage, and I like chicken, too, so several years ago I started making chicken and Andouille gumbo. I have had great luck with the Gumbo Shop’s recipe, so I’ve adapted it here, along with my own notes.
This is an okra gumbo, not a filé gumbo. There’s probably all kinds of culinary anthropology and debate on this subject, but basically, you can thicken gumbo with either okra or filé, which is a fine powder ground from the leaves of the sassafras tree. Filé is generally associated with Cajun gumbos; the okra and tomatoes in this recipe are more in keeping with the Creole tradition. But don’t fear the okra slime! You’ll cook the okra separately to eliminate the ropiness, resulting in an okra slime-free gumbo. Mmmmm, sounds delicious, right? But it is! Embrace the okra. You won’t regret it.
Also, a note about roux. Don’t let it intimidate you. If you’ve got one hand, you can make a roux. The photos here are great examples of the different shades of roux. Having everything prepped before you start the roux is, in my opinion, critical, because you stop the roux from burning by dumping in all your onions and the rest of your trinity.
This takes a little time, but it’s well worth the effort. After you make it once or twice, you’ll see that it’s really not all that hard at all, and with the possible exception of the Andouille, it’s made from pantry/fridge staples. Gumbo is great to make for dinner on a Sunday afternoon, and then freeze the leftover portions for quick weeknight suppers.
Chicken & Andouille Gumbo
1 chicken, 2 to 2 ½ pounds – I have used leftover chicken, I have used chicken breasts, and I have used a supermarket rotisserie chicken. The rotisserie chicken is hands-down the easiest way unless you have a lot of leftover roast chicken (or turkey) on hand.
3 quarts water – except if you’re using leftovers or a rotisserie chicken, in which case you’ll need about 8 cups chicken stock.
1 lb. fresh or frozen okra, slized into ½-inch rounds – fresh okra is abundant in Georgia right now, so that’s what I’ve been using, but frozen sliced okra really is perfectly fine.
½ cup plus 2 T cooking oil – I use canola, and I don’t recommend olive oil as I feel the smoke point is way too low to make a good roux.
½ cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped celery
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced into ¼-inch rounds – I’ve used all kinds of Andouille, but lately I’ve been using the chicken Andouille from Costco. When I make it to Patak Bohemia in Austell, I use theirs. (If you live anywhere near metro Atlanta, please take a field trip to Patak! And don’t forget a cooler.)
1 bay leaf
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried basil
½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp white pepper – I frequently just use 1 t black pepper and I really don’t notice a difference
about ¼ t cayenne pepper – add to taste; use less for a more kid-friendly gumbo and then just add Tabasco to your bowl after the kids are served
Salt to taste
If you’re using a whole chicken, cut it into eight pieces, cover with the water, and simmer it for about an hour until the chicken is tender and easily removed from the bones. Pour off the stock and set it aside. If you’re using leftover chicken or turkey or a rotisserie chicken, just chop up the chicken and use prepared chicken stock (or pull some from your freezer – you’ve got to do something with those roast chicken carcasses, right?)
In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 T oil and then add the okra. Sauté the okra on medium-high for about 10 minutes or so, or until all the ropiness is gone. This will make sense when you’re doing it.
Meanwhile (Or not – I don’t like to have anything else on the stove to distract me while I’m making a roux; frequently, Chris will do the okra while I make the roux. Alternately, you can chop your vegetables while you sauté the okra. Just make sure your vegetables are ready when you start the roux.), in a large Dutch oven, heat ½ cup oil over medium-high heat. Add the flour and proceed to make a dark roux.
At this point, you may be saying, “Hold up! You don’t just say, ‘Make a roux.’ How do I make a roux?” Well, the link above is helpful, but I don’t think it’s a great instructional tool. Here’s an adaptation of the Gumbo Shop instructions:
With your oil over medium-high heat, whisk in the flour, making sure it’s free of clumps. Continue stirring as the roux bubbles, and as soon as the bubbling stops and the roux smells kind of like popcorn, the flour is actually frying, and it will get brown quickly, so pay very close attention. Don’t answer the phone or the door or check your facebook feed. Really.
Stir the roux constantly, and as the flour transforms from tan to peanut butter to old penny brown, pay close attention, because…
As soon as the roux is dark brown, add the onions, bell pepper, and celery, and sauté, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender. Let the vegetables stick a little to the bottom of the pan, and then scrape everything up with a metal spoon. Some of the natural sugars in the onions will caramelize, and this will give the gumbo fantastic flavor.
When the vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes, sausage, and the sautéed okra. Continue cooking and stirring for about 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme, basil, sage, peppers, and salt to taste, and mix well. Add about 8 cups of chicken stock (either stock that you already had or the stock from the chicken you cooked in the first step); if you’re using canned stock, add the salt after you add the stock so you don’t accidentally oversalt the gumbo. Bring to a slow boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked chicken and additional stock, if necessary, and simmer for 15 more minutes. Adjust the seasoning and serve over rice.
One batch serves 8 to 10 hungry people; I freeze two-person portions in freezer bags and then just make more rice on the night I want to eat the gumbo. If you have time, it’s very nice to serve with some French bread and butter and a salad. I don’t have a photo of this gumbo because I recently cleared the last of it out of the deep freeze, but it’s as pretty as it is good. And no crab eyes!