Every adult Cajun male has a unique recipe for the best chicken and sausage gumbo. And being an adult Cajun male I know how to make a gumbo, but until now I’ve never made a recipe for it. Unfortunately, I can only give you the lyrics, not the music. To become a true gumbo maker takes a lot of practice and some “almosts.” Endure those, and one day you’ll arrive at what I call “pure velvet:” a gumbo so smooth and hardy that you put down your spoon and smile after the first mouthful.
4-5 lb whole hen
1 lb pure pork smoked sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
Seasoning (salt, black pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder)
Cajun hot sauce
First you make a roux. Or you buy a jar at the store. I’m not judging you. A roux is equal parts flour and fat, usually a good cooking oil. I’ll use a cup of all-purpose flour and a cup of vegetable oil in a large heavy pot. Every Cajun has a gumbo pot, and that’s usually all they ever use it for.
Over a medium heat stir, stir, stir for no less than 45 minutes. Don’t forget to stir. If you do you will definitely burn your roux and start over, or like me, just go grab a jar at the store.
SECRET NO. 2
Once the roux is darker than peanut butter (like the drop to the left) add water. How much is up to you, but I usually start with a gallon. It’s a big pot. Here’s secret number one: boil the hell out of the roux for at least an hour. And hour and a half is better, and two hours is perfect. And it doesn’t have to be on a high heat. Bring it to a boil and turn down the fire just to where it remains boiling uncovered. Watch for boilovers. It’ll happen. I tried the wooden spoon trick on the top, and maybe it works. Don’t know. All I can say is that my gumbo is better if I have at least one boilover, and is fantastic if I have two or more. Just saying. That’s why I’m sometimes relegated to outside on the gas burner.
You’ll want to stir that every so often. You definitely want to make sure the roux is completely dissolved in the water, but you know, after an hour or so it probably will be. Stir to make sure.
While that’s happening on the stove cut up your chicken. You want a whole chicken, a baking hen, not a fryer.
Cutting up is simple. Remove the thighs first, then separate the drumsticks. Next take off the wings. Separate the tips. Split the breasts and separate from the backbone. NOTE: I did not say to discard anything because everything is going into the pot after it’s seasoned well.
And I mean season. I dump all parts into a clean kitchen sink and douse it with my seasoning mixture: 4 parts salt, 2 parts pepper, 2 parts cayenne, 1 part onion and garlic powder. Then I soak it in at least half a bottle of Cajun hot sauce. Tabasco works extremely well. What you want is a chicken the looks red. Seriously, then it’s perfectly seasoned.
SECRET NO. 2
My secret ingredients is really no secret, but it’s just hard to get just anywhere. In fact, you can only get it in one place: Lejeune’s Sausage Kitchen in Eunice, Louisiana. Their pure pork mild smoked sausage is perfect for gumbo, or sausage poboys or anything having to do with sausage. I’ve tried all the others, and while some are good, I personally think Lejeune’s is the best. Like the other recipes, everyone is different. When living in Florida I’ve used a smoked kielbasa with some success. Just chop it up into quarter-inch slices.
Some people like andouille, some like tasso. I like Lejeune’s.
Back to the chopping block. You need to invoke the Holy Trinity. And by trinity I mean onion, bell pepper and celery. I always introduce a fourth: garlic.
Dice them up good, and hey, hey, hey, don’t throw those celery leaves away. There’s a lot of flavor there!
After the roux has boiled sufficiently dump everything in. No, seriously, everything goes in at this time. Don’t precook anything, and don’t omit any of the chicken pieces, including any giblets that may have been packed with it
Bring to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer. This will cook for no less than two hours.
SECRET NO. 3
When it’s been simmering for a couple of hours, and it looks done: don’t eat it! Dead serious here. Put it in the fridge overnight. The next day reheat on low for another hour or two. While this is happening you’ll want to get your sides ready. Steamed rice is a necessity. I use medium grain rice. Don’t care for long grain. I’ve used brown rice and it’s OK, but medium grain from around Crowley, La. is perfect. Full disclosure: raised on an Acadia Parish rice farm that family still farms.
I like a sweet potato with my gumbo, some people like potato salad. Your choice. I like to oil a couple of sweet potatoes and stick them in the oven for a couple of hours. My daughter, Haley, makes perfect pickled mirlitons that may a great accompaniment. The Coleman men like Saltines, but a nice crusty baguette goes well.
About 15 minutes before you’re done, add a few chopped green onion tops before you take it off the burner. Then right before serving stir in some fresh chopped parsley.
How do I know it’s finished? When I can pick the bones out of the pot. This is a personal preference but right before I’m finished I’ll fish all the no longer necessary parts out: the bones, backbone, tail (what we call the croupion), liver, neck, etc. I don’t care for those, but if some do, then put it aside for them. I’ll also skim any grease from the top.
Now it’s ready for serving. Get a large bowl, no, bigger than that, yeah the big bowl! Put in a couple of scoops of rice and then ladle gumbo right into it. I always keep my stirring spoon nearby so diners can select their own meat.
Don’t forget the crackers, bread, sweet potatoes, and mirliton along with your favorite beverage. Also, make sure to have a bottle of filé close by. It always adds just a little more flavor for me.
Now I got myself hungry.
Categories: What was I thinking?