It’s cold, gray and rainy outside today, and as much as I say I love the change of seasons, days like this make my wanderlust kick in, urging me to someplace warm. A friend of mine has a rental place in New Orleans and I’ve got an open invitation to go where the temperatures are now in the mid-seventies. Alas, real life intrudes and patience is called for, so the next best thing is having something hot and hearty warming up your kitchen.
As many years as I’ve been cooking, I’ve never made a gumbo, so I thought this would be a good time to try. I did the “cheap” one first, hoping to truly master the roux, then attempt the duck or seafood gumbo later.
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
10-12 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves
1 12-ounce bottle of dark beer
5 cups chicken stock
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound Andouille sausage, cut in 1/2 inch rounds or half-moons
Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
grits or rice
Preheat your oven to 400.
On a rimmed baking sheet, place the chicken skin side up and season with 2 teaspoons of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper.
Roast for 20 minutes or until the skin looks lightly golden. Remove from the oven and don’t drain the fat.
Prepare your veggies and have them ready to add to the roux.
Here’s another thing that requires patience: the roux. Doing a perfect roux is absolutely critical for a good gumbo. It doesn’t add to the sauce, it IS the sauce, and it takes a while - more than an hour.
In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, whisk the flour and oil together. this will become your roux and must be stirred constantly. If you walk away for a minute, it will burn and you’ll have to start over. Use a wooden spatula to continuously stir, scraping the bottom the entire time, turning the heat up or down to keep it cooking but not burning. There are different kinds of roux - caramel or dark, but this gumbo requires a dark roux.
As you stir, it will s l o w l y change color, from white to yellow to tan to brown. The middle picture below was at the caramel stage. The picture to the right of it was at the milk chocolate stage when I added the vegetables. The roux will be extremely hot and the veggies will cook quickly. Return it to a simmer, stirring constantly.
Add the stock, the rest of the salt and pepper, the cayenne, chicken with all its juices, bay leaves and sausage. (You could remove the skin and bones from the chicken before you add it, but down south, they just eat around it). Bring it back to a simmer, then turn your stove down as low as it can go. Cover the pot and let it cook for 3 hours, stirring and scraping the bottom every half hour. If the sauce thickens too much, you can add a little water. If it seems too thin, remove the cover for the last half hour or so.
Serve with some grits as I did, or some rice, and top with your hot sauce of choice.
Enjoy with a Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre like the Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre.
Now, off to work on my bicep strength for the duck gumbo. Enjoy.