Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Posted on 02/18/2010. Filed under: Dinner |

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida in the city of Pensacola, and New Orleans is about a three and a half hour drive away. My parents first took me to New Orleans when I was probably around the age of nine. And it was Mardi Gras. I remember it was a chilly day in February, standing on a street in the French Quarter, waiting four hours for the parades to start. And when they did, mayhem ensued: beads, candy and doubloons flying everywhere and people of all ages fighting for them, elbowing each other and scurrying over barricades for a cheap piece of plastic. It was the thrill that overwhelmed me. And then my parents and I walked down Bourbon Street.

My mom bought a steaming bowl of jambalaya off a man on a street corner that was cooking it in a massive cast-iron kettle. I remember being horrified of buying food that was being served in such an unsanitary way. She assured me by telling me there were enough spices in the jambalaya to kill off any germs. And she was probably right. As I’ve grown older I have come to appreciate street food more.

When one thinks of New Orleans, probably two dishes come to mind: jambalaya and gumbo. And like all regional dishes, gumbo can be a controversial topic as everyone claims their gumbo is the best and has their own way of making it. The basics of the dish though, are these: the holy trinity of vegetables (green bell pepper, onion & celery), roux, chicken stock and either file (fee-lay) or okra. People will argue until the end of time about ingredients and techniques on this dish (okra or file, cast-iron or regular stockpot, how much time goes into it, seafood or chicken, etc). I consulted a few resources and came upon a fairly simple recipe that I knew wouldn’t take all day and I knew the ingredients wouldn’t be region-specific to Louisiana, like crawfish often are.

I began by going to Carytown to Penzey’s Spices as I checked online to see if they sell gumbo file and they do. I hadn’t been there before and it’s kind of a good thing I hadn’t. I love spices and herbs and really think they add a lot of flavor to a dish without adding fat. Not everyone enjoys slathering corn on the cob in mayonnaise and grilling it (which, ew, hot mayo, gross). The ladies there are very nice and helpful and found me the file I was looking for, as well as a small jar of cayenne.

I then headed to Whole Foods because I wanted good andouille sausage, and I thought surely Whole Foods has okra. I decided to make the gumbo with file and okra as I like a thicker stew. And I like okra. Especially fried. Mmmm, hot fried okra. Good times. Where was I? Right, Whole Foods. I get to the store and no okra. Seems I wasn’t the only person in Richmond thinking she might make a Cajun dish on Fat Tuesday. I had to settle for frozen. But the good news about frozen okra is that it’s already cut-up. Score! Less prep and less handling of slimy veggies! When I got into the store I ran into a guy who works in the meat department and asked about the andouille. He said a lady bought three pounds the day before but there should be more in the case. Well, there were two links. Dan, the meat department Team Leader let me know they were making it in the back at that very moment. Woo hoo! Fresh-as-hell andouille! I needed a pound and asked them to reserve it for me and I’d pick it up in a bit. I wandered around the store and talked with friends, picked up bone-in chicken thighs that the recipe called for, a mini-baguette of French bread, my frozen okra and my sausage was ready. I went to Kroger to get the Holy Trinity and went home smelling fresh andouille all the way.

I diced up my veg to get my mise en place ready, sliced the sausage as best I could (difficult to do with a room-temp sausage and a knife that needed sharpening, but oh well it ended up in the pot anyway). While I was slicing the sausage, I guess the casing moved the meat out a little and resembled a condom. Ah, high-jinks in prep work. I drizzled vegetable oil in the bottom of my stock pot and browned the sausage. Heavenly. I mentioned I dig the pig, but sausages are particularly delicious to me. Whole Foods’ recipe for andouille is soooo good. I mean, really freakin’ good. Just enough spice for heat but so rich in flavor. I removed the sausage to a plate lined with paper to drain. I removed the skin from the chicken thighs and browned the thighs on both sides, removed them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. I added a bit more oil to the pot and enough flour to make a thick roux, scraping the hell out of the bottom of the pot to get the delicious bits that were stuck. I let the roux get to a medium reddish brown and added the Trinity (the vegetables, not the killer), and cooked until soft, about five minutes, stirring often. I added four cups of water and four cups of my homemade stock (thank you, roast chicken carcass!), the okra (which I’d cooked for 25 minutes in simmering water and vinegar, rinsed and drained), the meats, and the spices: a tablespoon each of dried thyme, cayenne and file, and four bay leaves. At this point I hadn’t used salt or pepper at all. I figured there’d be no need for pepper as there was a full teaspoon of cayenne, but I wish I’d added a little salt. Oh well. I let the pot simmer for half an hour, removed the chicken and cut the meat off the bones and cut it into smaller pieces, threw the meat back into the pot and reserved the bones for a stock that will happen at a later time.

I’d invited my friends Brandon & Morgan over for dinner and was really happy that my gumbo was their first. I served the gumbo in bowls with a scoop of hot cooked rice in the middle and a hunk of crusty French bread on the side. Oh my God in heaven! It was like I was walking down Bourbon Street again. The smell of the gumbo was meaty and spicy and comforting. I was back home on the Gulf Coast. The cayenne gave the stew a wonderful, yet slow-creeping kick, not enough to detract from the dish but enough to make your lips a little numb. The sausage was really great in the stew and provided a nice depth of flavor. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, still a little bite to them. The file and the okra gave the gumbo a real rich heartiness the dish needed. And it paired perfectly with a cold beer. Brandon & Morgan loved it and I sent them home with a container. My mom and I had leftovers tonight and her exact words were, “Oh my God, this is good. Mmmmmmmm.” Any leftover broth was sopped up with French bread.

For my first pot of gumbo it was a success. Next time I may do boneless thighs as the ones I’d purchased weren’t very meaty and contained too many ligaments, and I may add shrimp. I seasoned my bowl of leftovers with some salt and I really didn’t notice much of a difference, the gumbo was great with or without it. I may also try to darken the roux more but all in all, it was a pretty awesome pot of gumbo.

Laissez les bon temps rouler, y’all!!


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3 Responses to “Chicken and Sausage Gumbo”

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Next time you make it, I’m inviting myself, no seafood please, just as it was. Delicious. I could die for it. It makes me think back to the gumbos I’ve eaten in N’awlins. Thanks Shannon, great blog!

[…] or cook whole then slice.  Otherwise it’ll fall apart.  It didn’t matter with the gumbo, but I wanted slices for this dish.  Mmmm, fatty porky […]

Yumm! You could invite us over as taste testers any time!

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