Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One of my favorite smells in the whole world is the scent of a dark roux cooking. Nothing else can transport me back to my childhood so easily. A lot of my favorite recipes (Cajun and otherwise) start with a roux, but a roux this dark, aromatic, and flavorful can only mean one thing--gumbo.

If you haven't actually had gumbo before, it's kind of like a stew. Generally it's served over rice, though some people prefer potato salad. You make it with some sort of stock and add in various meats and vegetables. My favorite combo is chicken and sausage, but seafood gumbo is also delicious. The most important ingredients though are the ones you use to thicken the gumbo. You can use filé, okra, or a roux as your thickener, and each one provides a different overall flavor. My favorite is gumbo made with a roux, but to each his own. (I do like to sprinkle some filé, which consists of ground sassafras leaves, over my gumbo anyway though because I like the earthy flavor that it has.)

A dark roux is really easy to burn, and you'll definitely be able to smell it if you do. If that happens, throw it out and start over; there's no saving a burnt roux. The key to getting it right in the first place is to just keep stirring, constantly. It will take a long time. Your arm might get tired. Just keep stirring. You want your roux to be a dark, chocolatey color. It should be darker than milk chocolate but not black. The darker you can get your roux without burning it, the more flavor your gumbo will have.

This recipe makes a lot of gumbo. I would recommend using at least a 10-quart pot to make this. Be prepared to freeze some if you're not feeding an army. (Freeze just the gumbo, and then make fresh rice to serve it over when you defrost and reheat it. Don't freeze it with rice in it already.) The amount of meat that you add is really up to you; the amount listed in the recipe is more of a suggestion than anything. My mom's recipe calls for 10 lbs of chicken leg and thigh quarters, bone-in, and 3 lbs of sausage. I almost never buy bone-in chicken, or dark meat for that matter, so I used the boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I had on hand already. I used 2 pounds of smoked sausage and about 3-4 pounds of chicken breasts, though I would've used more chicken if I had had it. The amount you use really just depends on how meaty you want your gumbo to be. The broth itself is really tasty though, so don't feel like you need to have a lot of chicken and sausage in there in order to enjoy it.


10 lb chicken leg and thigh quarters
7 qt water, divided
1 1/2 c vegetable oil
2 1/2 c flour
4 c diced onion
2 c diced bell pepper
1 c diced celery
1/2 c chopped parsley
1/4 c minced garlic
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp thyme
3 lb smoked sausage


Bring chicken and 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high medium-heat. Boil 1 1/2 hours. Remove and reserve chicken in a bowl, allowing to cool. Strain 5 quarts of stock into a smaller pot, skimming off any fat. Return to heat, bringing stock to a gentle boil.

In the large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add flour and stir until well-blended. Continue to stir, scraping the sides and bottom constantly and consistently until mixture begins to brown. Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir until roux is a dark, chocolatey color. As soon as dark color is achieved, remove pot from heat and add onion. Stir well, keeping your face away from the steam that will roll out of the pot, and continue stirring until sizzling stops.

Return pot to heat, and slowly add the 5 quarts of boiling stock, stirring until well-combined. Add 1 quart water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Add bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, and thyme, and stir well. Reduce heat just enough to maintain a moderate boil. Boil for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, pick meat from chicken bones, and slice sausage to desire thickness. Add sausage to gumbo and boil for 30 more minutes. Reduce heat to low and add chicken. Cover, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Serve over cooked rice.

Servings: 16

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