Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Gumbo Recipe

There are as many gumbo recipes as there are cooks.  It's something I grew up hearing, and I think it's true.  Mostly.  Some things are not gumbo.  I once ordered "gumbo" in a restaurant in San Francisco and got some sort of clear-brothed soup with chunks of carrots (carrots!) and fancy chicken-apple sausage.  This is not gumbo.

THIS is Gumbo:

Dark broth, sausage that will give you a heart attack, and definitely no carrots.  Today, I'm sharing my personal recipe, but you’d better have good sausage and a good pot, or I take no responsibility for the outcome!

Step One: 
Get four onions, four stalks of celery, and two green bell peppers. Chop ‘em up.  Small is good, but you don’t have to be anal about it.  (An example of how gumbo recipes differ: my mother doesn't use bell peppers in hers.)

Step Two:
Load up your iPod and get a cup of coffee.  You’re gonna be at the stove for the next hour, no breaks.  Here's my setup, including my favorite coffee cup:

Step Three:
Get your pot.  Dump in one cup of corn oil and one cup of bleached flour.  (No substitutions!  Bleached flour absorbs the oil better.)   Mix until there are no lumps.  Once you’ve got a smooth paste, turn the heat on medium.  Stir CONSTANTLY, covering the entire base of the pot, until the mixture heats up, then turn the heat to low.   Keep stirring.  

Step Four:
Keep stirring.

Step Five:
Has it been half an hour yet?  If so, take the following quiz to see if you’re done.

My roux is the color of...
A) …my self-assembled IKEA birch-finish bookshelf.
          Are you kidding?  Not even close.  Is the fire on?
B) …a penny (a not-so-new one).
          Almost there!  Don’t give up.
C) …a Hershey bar.
          You’re done!  Pour in those chopped vegetables (quick!  before it burns!) and keep stirring. 
D) ... a Hershey bar with little cookie pieces in it.
          Ummmm...sorry to have to tell you this, but you burned it.

Here's my roux in progress.  Not-quite done roux:

Done roux:

Step Six:
Once you've added the vegetables, you don’t have to stir so often, just every minute or so to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.  When the vegetables have wilted down to about half their original volume, add half a tablespoon of chopped garlic, stir for another minute, and start pouring in chicken broth a little at a time.  Don’t stop stirring while adding the broth.  At this stage, your gumbo should look like something the dog threw up on the couch...

...but it should smell amazing.  Keep stirring & adding chicken broth.  Your gumbo consistency is up to you.  My mom makes hers a little it thin; I’ve modified the recipe to make it a little thick. 

Step Seven:
Put in a chicken.  (Make sure you take out the organs & neck from the cavity!)  Add two bay leaves and a couple teaspoons of crushed, dried rosemary.  Bring the gumbo to a simmer and let the chicken cook until it is literally falling apart.  This will take 2-3 hours.  Fish out the bones and & pick off all the meat, then throw it back into the pot.  Let it cool a little and skim the fat off the top.  Cook it some more.  (It is impossible to overcook gumbo.)

When  you're ready to serve it, adjust the seasoning with Tony Chachere's (or the seasoned salt of your choice) and add a bunch of chopped up parsley.  Cook a pound of sausage and throw it in.  Your gumbo is done!  Serve it over rice, topped with green onions and file (powdered sassafras).  I let my guests add the hot sauce themselves.  Yum!


  1. If I ever make gumbo, I will be digging up this post and trying it out. (Maybe one day I'll have the time!) This looks delicious!

  2. Okay, it's settled. Hubby and I are making a trip to your place for dinner. I'm not joking. We'll be there at 6.

    In all seriousness, we should meet up sometime and let The Hubby and The Enabler meet. :)

  3. @Jaimie: I hardly ever have the time anymore myself! Making gumbo this past weekend made me remember how much I miss it, and cooking in general. The apartment smells so wonderful afterwards.

    @Kristin: Come on over! I'm sure The Enabler would like to have someone to commiserate with. ;)