When my hubby and I visited New Orleans, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon The Gumbo Shop, a quaint Creole restaurant located around the corner from Saint Louis Cathedral. We were to attend a conference party that night and I was in no way hungry at all because of one too many hurricanes (the drink) and the oppressive heat. But our friends wanted to have dinner first so we went along. Looking through the menu, I casually ordered the seafood gumbo. Little did I know that I would experience the most complex mingling of taste one could ever experience from a humble stew or soup. The gumbo was so good it made me hungry and I ate every last drop and morsel of it. Such was my fond memories of that first encounter with truly authentic Creole cooking.
So this weekend being a cold, wet rainy day and the “Hungry Hubby” having the sniffles needing a shot of spicy hot soup, I proceeded to make the Chicken Andouille gumbo. I would have loved to make the seafood gumbo but getting shrimp with the head on in this part of the country is kind of hard to come by.
But before I dive into the recipe, you must first make a roux. A roux is the basis for many Creole dishes. This is done by heating oil on a heavy bottomed pot on medium high heat and adding flour to it. Continue to stir as it bubbles, what it is is the flour’s moisture being cooked off. As soon as the bubble subsides and the aroma starts to become similar to popcorn, the flour is actually frying and the rate of browning accelerates. Pay close attention from this point on while you continue to whisk. For this application, we will need a dark roux similar to the color of dark chocolate.
The tale of the vanishing whisk. It is advised to make a sacrificial roux before you attempt your first gumbo. During my first time of making a roux, I used a non-stick pot so of course I used a non-stick plastic whisk. I was stirring the roux, watching excitedly as the color deepened and I began to catch the aroma of popcorn. Pretty soon though another oddly burnt smell permeated the kitchen. I lifted my whisk and watched in horror as the top third of my whisk was gone; it had melted into my roux! Such was the story I always tell whenever the subject of gumbo comes up.
Recipe from the Gumbo Shop cookbook by Richard Stewart
Chicken Andouille Gumbo
1 chicken, 2 –2 1/2 lb
3 quarts water
1 lb. fresh or frozen okra sliced into ½ inch rounds
½ cup plus 2 Tbs. cooking oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped celery
1 16 ounce can chopped tomatoes
¾ lb. Andouille sausage sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. sage
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt
Cut the chicken into eight pieces, cover with water and simmer for about one hour until chicken is tender and easily removed from the bones. Pour off stock and set aside. Allow chicken to cool, remove from bones and set aside.
In a large heavy skillet, sauté the okra in 2 tablespoons of oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until all the “ropiness” is gone. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven, heat ½ cup oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and make a dark brown roux. (See instructions above). As soon as the proper color is achieved, add the onions, bell pepper and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally until tender. During this process, allow the vegetables to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, and then scrape the bottom with a metal spoon or spatula. This allows some of the natural sugars in the onions to caramelize, rendering great depth of flavor.
When the vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes, Andouille sausage and sautéed okra. Continue cooking and stirring for about 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme, basil, sage, peppers and salt and mix well. Pour in about 8 cups of the chicken stock, bring to a slow boil, lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Add the cooked chicken and additional stock of necessary and simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve in large bowls over steamed rice.
Note: I did find I would have liked the chicken to have more flavor going into the gumbo. I might use two chicken, one for the stock and another that is seasoned and browned before adding to the gumbo. Also, I have made a gumbo with kielbasa sausage that I preferred more in the taste department more than Andouille. It is important to get the roux and the caramelization of the vegetables right because the depth of flavor springs from this procedure.