Valentine’s Day is over, hooray! We made it! Now it’s time to do some real celebrating! In honor of Mardi Gras and the recent Saints victory, I decided to get in the spirit of New Orleans and make a dish that is commonly found down in the Big Easy. GUMBO!
For those of us Northerners unfamiliar with the dish, gumbo has the consistency of a soup or stew. It is associated with Louisiana but found all over the south. Gumbo is sometimes spicy, sometimes mild, depending on the ingredients you include. All gumbos start out with a basic stock and then a thickener is added, typically making a roux. I am told that other things have historically been used to thicken it up. But since this was my first time experimenting with this recipe, I didn’t want to mess around. I stuck with a roux. Other gumbo ingredients include: the “Holy Trinity” of the south: celery, bell peppers, and onions; Okra, a vegetable of African origin; and a combination of chicken, sausage, duck, shellfish, etc.
I found so many amazing gumbo recipes online, including several amazing Emeril Lagasse recipes that I will absolutely be experimenting with in the future. Emeril’s recipes for duck gumbo look out of this world!!! But I decided to go with a Paula Deen recipe for a few reasons. First, she incorporated three fabulous yet basic gumbo ingredients: chicken, sausage, and shrimp. Second, being from the Northeast, fresh okra is nearly impossible to find around here – especially in February. This recipe called for frozen okra, which is doable. Third, though this recipe required a large chunk of my time (about 4 hours since I didn’t know what I was doing), this was still less than the time required by similar recipes.
I encountered some complications with this recipe. I couldn’t find andouille sausage at the grocery store and there was no way had I time to make it myself from scratch. The butcher recommended I use kielbasa, a mild Polish sausage that is commonly incorporated into gumbo. But I wanted a little bit of spice and a more potent smoky flavor so I decided to use chorizo sausage instead. (And boy, did it cost me a penny. But it was well worth it!)
Other than that, everything went surprisingly smoothly when cooking this dish! I loved loved loved spending the afternoon at the stove, like a real southern lady on a Sunday making a hearty dish straight from her soul. Making my first roux was, admittedly, a very rewarding experience. I made sure to stir it slowly and continuously as the recipe calls for, for at least 10 minutes or maybe more, until it turned into a chocolate brown color. Once you have this step down, its smooth sailing from there. Just follow the instructions and prepare yourself for a absolutely delicious fairytale feast! Trust me, this recipe is amazing and you’re going to love it!
- 3 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons margarine
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 3 stalks celery chopped
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish
- 4 cups hot water
- 5 beef bouillon cubes
- 1 (14-ounce can) stewed tomatoes with juice
- 2 cups frozen sliced okra
- 4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts
- 1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and remove. Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove.
Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of margarine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. Let the roux cool.
Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons margarine. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper and celery and cook for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, to taste and the 1/4 bunch parsley.
Cook, while stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add 4 cups hot water and bouillon cubes, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving add the green onions, shrimp and chopped parsley.
This dish tastes amazing on its own. But it is commonly served over steamed white rice. The dish gets more flavorful over time, so let it sit!