Although I hate the cold, I do love an excuse to eat a warm and hearty soup or stew. Truly, that’s the only redeeming quality of winter in my opinion. I mean, who wants a big bowl of gumbo in the summer? Well, me actually, but it gets your house steamy and makes you all warm inside. Not exactly what you are going for when it’s 98F outside with 95% humidity. But on one of those crisp winter days, when you’ve got a fire in the fireplace and a good movie on Netflix, a good soup or stew is just right.
And apparently all of the food sites that I follow are in on my great love. Every single one published article after article about wonderful soups a few weeks ago. Saveur is one of my favorites. They recently reran an article online about the soups of Mexico and another about various gumbo recipes. I loved the gumbo idea and hadn’t made a “real” one before. Some were super simple like your mama would have made out on the bayou, and others were clearly geared towards high end fine dining, but all looked wonderful so I decided to try one.
Now, I have to admit that I’m not always a gumbo purist. In my opinion, a true gumbo should absolutely have okra in it. And I’ve eaten those gumbos. But I tend to eat AROUND the okra. It’s just not something I love. It’s a bit too slimy for my taste but I do recognize that it is a good thickener. So when I saw a recipe that was more about the roux than anything else, I was intrigued and decided to go for it on a nice, brisk Sunday afternoon. And no okra. Yay for me!
This is a Sunday afternoon kind of recipe, y’all. You start out by cooking a whole chicken in a pot with a bunch of aromatics, thus making both the chicken and the cooking liquid for your gumbo. So although not difficult, not something you can do without planning it in advance.
This really is all about the roux. Roux is a crazy thing. It’s basically just cooked flour and fat but you’ve got to do it slowly and carefully or it just becomes burned flour and that’s nasty. And unfortunately, there’s a very fine line between burned and brown so you have to really watch it carefully as you cook so as not to ruin your whole dish. You are going to cook that roux for at LEAST 30 minutes (mine took almost an hour to get just right) so pour your self a glass
or three of wine or grab a beer and plan to hang out. It’ll be worth it in the end.
Of course, because this is a Cajun dish, you are going to have your trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper. This is actually Holy Trinity because of the addition of some garlic. Once you have your roux made, this will come together in about 20 minutes, so chop all of your veggies while the chicken is cooking and start your roux at least an hour before you want to eat. It’s a bit of time in the kitchen but your warm tummy and slightly spicy mouth will thank you. It also helps that Mardi Gras is going on right now with Mardi Gras actually falling on Tuesday the 9th. I made this on Sunday and rounded it out with a big old King Cake to complete the celebration. So make this now or hang on to the recipe until next year when you throw the mother of all Mardi Gras parties.
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo (adapted from Saveur Magazine, March 21, 2013)
- 1 whole chicken, cut up
- 2 medium onions, one quartered, one finely diced
- 4 stalks celery, two cut in quarters, two finely diced
- 2 large carrots, cut in quarters
- 1 T whole black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves, divided
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
- 1 large green bell pepper, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb andouille sausage, sliced
- 1 T creole seasoning
- 1/2 t cayenne pepper (or less depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1 t chopped fresh thyme
- 1 T Louisiana hot sauce (I like Crystal)
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- cooked white rice
- scallions or hot sauce for serving, optional
Place chicken pieces, quartered onions, celery halves and carrot halves in very large stock pot. Add peppercorns, two of the bay leaves, and thyme springs. Cover with water (about 10 cups). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Strain stock and discard solids leaving stock over low heat until ready to use. (If you need to use this same pot for your gumbo, it’s okay to just set the stock aside. I just like to have it simmering right there ready to go when I need it). When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull meat from the bone and shred (I usually do this while I’m cooking the veggie part of this dish). Reserve meat for later.
In a cast iron dutch oven or large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until nice and smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon (or your whisk if you prefer) for 20-45 minutes or until very dark. It should smell nutty but not burned and it should be about the color of milk chocolate.
Slowly stir in remaining bay leaf, diced onions, celery, peppers and garlic (the first time I made this, the cool, damp veggies caused the roux to seize up, so try to have them at room temp and add slowly and gradually to avoid this). Cook about 10 minutes or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add andouille, creole seasoning, cayenne, hot sauce and thyme leaves. Cook about 5 minutes or until fat is beginning to render from andouille. Gradually stir in around 5-6 C of reserved chicken stock, stirring well after each addition (you can save any remaining stock for another use). Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and if you still taste the flour or if it’s a little thick, add more chicken stock. Add reserved chicken and continue to simmer for about five minutes or until chicken is warmed through.
Serve with white rice and garnish with scallions (which I forgot to buy) if desired. Add extra hot sauce as needed.
*Just a side note, Chef J thought this dish really wanted some shrimp. And next time I make this, I might just throw some shrimp in there at the end (peeled shrimp will cook in about three minutes). Even The Boy, who doesn’t like shrimp, thought that the flavor would have been a little deeper with some shrimp in there. Sigh. . . I live with a couple of food critics. That said, if you want to throw in a half pound of shrimp, I’d peel them and then toss them with about a tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning. Let them hang out in the fridge while you cook everything else and add them after the chicken. Cook until just pink.