Gumbo Weather: A Soul Stirring Cajun Recipe Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments
For some people it’s chili. For some, it’s soup. For others, it may be stew. When cooler temperatures finally roll in, we think of the hearty comfort foods of fall and winter. My residence in central Texas hasn’t changed my thoughts at the first sign of a cold front. My Louisiana roots still make me think, “It’s gumbo weather.”
Gumbo could be described as somewhere between a soup and a stew, but it is truly its own dish and hard to compare to any other. Its flavor and consistency are derived from the roux (pronounced ROO), a mixture of oil—or fat—and flour cooked until darkened to the color of a dark cup of coffee. It is common in Louisiana, when a cook is asked how long to cook a roux, for the reply “two beers” to be given.
For me, making gumbo is almost a spiritual experience. It’s usually a two-day affair for me, as I like to cook my chicken and stock the day before. Most Cajuns will actually cook their chicken in the gumbo, after the roux is finished, but I prefer to cook my chicken ahead and add the stock after the fat has been removed. The next day, I clear time and assume my place at the stove, big wooden spoon in hand, as I stir the roux. I watch it go from blonde to varying shades of brown before it reaches the copper-penny color stage. Then, I know it won’t be long. As the color intensifies, so does the fragrance. It never fails to amaze me how two simple ingredients can become something so extraordinary. The roux is earthy—in color, scent and taste—and so it offers the perfect culinary representation of south Louisiana. Quotes from southern authors fill my head, along with visions of Spanish moss draped over limbs of live oaks, with all these roux-induced hallucinations helped on by the musical accompaniment of lively or mournful Cajun music as I stir.
Then, comes that anticipated moment, right before the roux reaches that perfect darkened shade of brown, when I add the seasoning vegetables: the Cajun Trinity of onion, bell pepper and celery, along with garlic. I call everyone present in to experience the smell as the vegetables hit the hot roux. The fragrant steam results in the ultimate Cajun facial as we lean over the pot.
After the broth, chicken, sausage, and seasonings are added to the roux, the gumbo will continue to simmer on the stove. It’s one of those wonderful foods that is even better as leftovers, as the flavors have time to intensify and combine in the refrigerator. Served over cooked rice, gumbo is the heartiest and most satisfying of comfort foods.
Below is my recipe for a Cajun-style chicken and sausage gumbo, as opposed to a Creole-style one more associated with New Orleans. Although I was born and raised in Louisiana, I am not a Cajun. This gumbo has received the Cajun Seal of Approval, though, from my husband, who can trace his ancestry back to some of the original Acadians who arrived in St. Martinville, Louisiana.
The Pie Belle’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Chicken and Stock:
Whole fryer or hen (hen is recommended)
4 quarts water
1 large onion, quartered
2 stalks, celery, chopped in large pieces, with leaves
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 ½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. red pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
dash of Tabasco brand pepper sauce (or more for more heat)
1-2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrin’s recommended)
2 lbs. smoked sausage links (combo of beef and pork works nicely)
1. Place rinsed chicken in water in a stockpot. Add the vegetables and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Cook 45 min. to an hour, until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Let broth cool, after straining through a cheesecloth. When chicken is cool, shred it. Remove fat from broth as it rises to the top. If making the day before, put the broth in the refrigerator where the fat will solidify and be easy to remove.
2. If your chicken broth is cold, heat it on the stove so it will be warm when you add it to the cooked roux.
3. To make the roux, heat the cooking oil on medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir continuously until the roux reaches almost the color of dark coffee. Don’t burn the roux! If you feel more comfortable, go for a slower roux, cooking over a lower heat. If you see black flecks or the roux smells burnt, you’ve gone too far and must start over.
4. Add onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic, stirring constantly as the roux reaches the color of dark coffee. Reduce heat and continue cooking as the vegetables soften.
5. Add warm broth, stirring to combine with roux and vegetables.
6. Add shredded cooked chicken and salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic salt, Tabasco and Worcestershire.
7. Cut sausage links into ¼ inch slices and fry them in a skillet, just until browned on each side.
8. Add sausage to gumbo and simmer at least one hour.
9. Before serving, add chopped green onions and parsley.
10. Serve over rice in soup or pasta bowl.
11. Optional: add file (ground leaves from the sassafras tree) to your bowl at the table.
…C’est bon! (That’s good!)
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