I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of a great dish to serve at my Christmas party this year when it hit me… GUMBO! It can feed A LOT of people, tastes delicious, and I can make it the day before, then heat it up just before my event- allowing me to actually ENJOY my own party rather than feel like the caterer.
Making Gumbo is really fun! There’s a lot of prep work involved but what a great meal to prepare with family and friends. (Also a great time to practice your Mise En Place technique: see Tip of the Month on the Home page.)
There are more recipes for Gumbo than there are food blogs and the folks of New Orleans take their Gumbo VERY seriously. Being a “northerner”, I was hesitant to even attempt to make this dish until I came across “My New Orleans- The Cookbook” by John Besh. If you are at all curious about Cajun cuisine, this book is for you. I’m so inspired to make so many of these dishes! What a wonderful Christmas gift this book would be for the chef in your life.
To make this recipe a little more “party friendly,” I’ll cut the chicken into smaller bite size pieces. You could also substitute chicken or turkey sausage for the smoked pork and andouille sausage. This recipe can easily be doubled if you are looking to feed an army like I am!
Adapted (very little) from “My New Orleans, The Cookbook” by John Besh
“Throughout this book, I’ve had a great deal to say about making the roux that’s the base of our gumbo–and the other steps as well–but I’ll recap it here so that it can be useful every time you start to make our signature dish. Yes, there are other thickeners besides flour that folks use for making their roux, but to my palate, only a flour-based roux yields that traditional flavor. As for the fats in a roux, just about anything works. I love rendered duck fat, chicken fat, or lard, but canola oil works nearly as well.
I always heat the oil first and whisk the flour into the hot oil. Not only does this speed up the process; it yields that deep, dark chocolate-colored gumbo I love. I always add the onions first to the dark roux, holding back the rest of the vegetables until the onion caramelizes. Otherwise, the water in the vegetables will keep the onion from browning and releasing its sweet juices. I like to add file powder to the gumbo, then pass it at the table, too. Serve the gumbo hot with Louisiana rice; serve potato salad on the side, if you like.” –John Besh
Servings: 10-12 (generous portions)
1 cup rendered chicken fat or canola oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, diced
1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons Creole Spices (like Tony Chachere’s- found in the spice aisle at the grocery store)
2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped
2 cups sliced fresh okra
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Freshly ground black pepper
Louisiana hot sauce or Tabasco
4–6 cups cooked white rice
1. Make a roux by heating the chicken fat or oil in a large cast-iron or heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Season the chicken with Creole Spices. Add the chicken to the pot, raise heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, Chicken Stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
4. Add the andouille, okra, and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé and hot sauce at the table.
*Note to my readers: A word about the rice. You need to be very careful with rice being left out at a party as it rapidly grows bacteria and, if left out too long, can cause food poisoning. If you’re not going to eat rice straight after you’ve cooked it, then you need to store it in the refrigerator as soon as possible, but definitely within four hours. Another option, and what I will be using at my party, is a rice cooker. This allows you to not only cook the rice, but it keeps it warm and you can hold it for hours- making it the perfect choice for a big party. Any uneaten rice should be thrown out after three days in the fridge.