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Chicken Gumbo

troutman

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Gumbo

This is for sure my favorite south Louisiana stew, that ubiquitous Cajun favorite called gumbo. I’ve decided to preface this with a little history behind the dish because it deserves a little more time, story and subsequent space to present. Like its siblings Jambalaya and Etouffee, gumbo is not only a great dish but it represents a state, its people, its cuisine and its history. If there was such a thing as an official state dish, in Louisiana it would be gumbo.

So what is gumbo? Some might characterize it as a thick soup. When the Acadians came to south Louisiana they sequestered themselves in the low lying swamps and bayou areas. They cooked a unique soup like stew that was dark in color and contained the proteins that they trapped, hunted or fished for. Gumbo then took on the characteristics of whatever it was cooked with from foul to deer to shellfish all contained in a dark, rich, nutty somewhat bitter base. They sometimes thickened this soup-like stew with a ground powder made from sassafras leaves known as file. In fact some claim that the word gumbo actually came from the Choctaw Indian word for file which was kombo.

In New Orleans, gumbo took on far reaching influences depending on the people who it came in contact with. New Orleans throughout its history was under some seven different flags, so as different groups would come and go they would leave their mark on the dish. You can see influences for instance, from Spanish Paella and heavy influences from the French Bouillabaisse, not to mention West African and Caribbean methods and spices. As a result other ingredients became synonymous with the dish, namely tomatoes and okra. Instead of using file, Creole cooks used the sticky okra, a plant believed to be of African origins, as a thickener. Therefore the Creole influence would claim that gumbo got its name from the African Bantu word for okra which was ngombo.

Whatever the case may be, you can see from the briefest of histories how gumbo defines that uniquely American cuisine that has its roots in dozens of influences and exists today in a variety of styles. For me personally I lived in the south Louisiana town of Morgan City for the better part of a year before moving to Houston and was introduced to the Cajun version of the dish. Since then I have actually adopted the complexities of the Creole version which I present below. Much of the way I cook it was heavily influenced by both Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme.

Gumbo itself is not a particularly hard dish to make but the techniques and the approach are what makes it the over the top dish that it can become. Although it can vary as I’ve said, all gumbo utilizes the several base ingredients and techniques of cooking. Although not necessary by any means, the vessel it’s cooked in should be some form of a cast iron pot. Although I’ve done it with stainless stewing pots, it’s simply not the same as when I cook it in my well-seasoned LeCruesset enameled cast iron pot. Next, is the base ingredient called roux. Roux is not as intimidating to make as one often imagines but does demand your constant attention and takes time. It is absolutely essential that gumbo is made with a correctly cooked roux (although that can vary as well which I’ll explain). For the vegetable base there is always the Holy Trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion with the addition of plenty of garlic. Gumbo can go from relatively mild to very spicy depending on the amount of heat the cook adds via a variety of spices. I like the influence of cayenne pepper to the dish but again that varies depending on one’s palate. Beyond that it’s the use of thickening agents (or not depending on the cooks taste) and a variety of protein. Typically there is a Cajun sausage involved, usually Andouille, which is a French influenced pork sausage with a fair amount of fat and spice content.

So much for the history and explanation, let’s make some gumbo. I normally use shell fish with mine, i.e. shrimp and crab. This time I wanted to introduce fried chicken and a slightly different methodology learned from Chef Prudhomme. I start by de-boning eight large chicken thighs, reserving the bones and the trimmings to make a chicken stock for the gumbo. I cut each subsequent thigh into two pieces to have smaller portions, about 3-4 oz. each. I salt brined and returned to the refrig while I continued preparation …..

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Next I chopped up my okra. I learned a little trick that cuts down on the so-called ‘slim’ given off by okra by simply pre-cooking it with some tomato. Since I intended to add tomato to the dish, this accomplished two purposes. I simmered the stock while gently cooking the okra on medium heat ……

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While that was going on, it was time to season, dredge and brown the chicken thighs. I placed them on a cooling rack to drain.....

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I cut up my Trinity and garlic, about 1 ½ cups of each and 5-6 cloves of garlic. I then began to make the roux. A normal roux consists of equal parts of flour and oil combined under heat in a cast iron pot. That will vary once again depending on the thickness required. In this case I used the oil that was utilized to brown the chicken (full of tons of flavor) and the seasoned flour I used for dredging, combining one cup each. Now here’s where the fun begins. Over medium high heat you need to begin stirring and don’t stop for more than a few seconds until the color is where you want it to be. How long does that take? It’s said that in the time it takes to drink 2 bottles of beer, the roux will be done!! But seriously it takes somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 minutes for me to achieve a proper end result. Roux can actually be used in making other dishes like soups and sauces as a thickening agent. In those cases it’s cooked quickly and is known as a blond roux. Seen here as I start, the roux quickly takes on a rich caramel like color. Notice also the various bits of chicken left from the oil, very important to taste …..

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After about 15 minutes of stirring, we begin to see the color change to a rich peanut butter ……

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And approaching the 25 minute mark it’s close to being done with a rich chocolate appearance. Again I am constantly stirring not letting the oil and flour separate and the flour burn …..

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Just beyond this point the roux begins to take on a dark chocolate color. Some cooks take it even further to almost black. Personally I think at that point the roux is coming close to being over cooked and way too bitter. Once you scorch the flour, you have ruined the roux and have to start over, so I like to keep it a bit lighter. I immediately add about 2/3 of my veggies to the pot. This accomplishes two things, slows the cooking of the roux and sautes the veggies. At this point, begin your seasoning and season each subsequent layer as you go. We want to continue building more flavor profiles in each layer. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes eventually adding the garlic and cooking for 5-7 minutes more…..

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Now that you have your base, you want to strain (or add if you’re using packaged stock) the chicken stock made from the bones into that roux/veggie base. I also season at this point, with some Italian dry herbs and a few bay leaves. Bring this to a rolling boil ……

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Once it begins to boil I add my Andouille. I want the sausage to render out some of its fat content. After about 15 minutes of boiling a scum of fat begins to form on the surface. Simple take a large spoon and spoon as much of it off as possible. I then add my okra/tomato mixture to begin the thickening process while reducing the heat to a simmer ……

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It’s at this point I add my protein, in this case the browned off chicken thighs. After about 10 minutes of additional simmering I add back the rest of the reserved veggies and garlic. Since the original batch of veggies had cooked down to soft, this final batch will add some crunch to the stew, not so much for flavor but an additional textural element …..
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Continue to simmer for a final 10-15 minutes until all ingredients begin to combine. As a bonus, I felt my protein count was a bit low so I added some shrimp at the final cooking stage. Again make your gumbo with whatever flavor profiles and proteins you have available or desire, that’s what makes gumbo so versatile. Your stew is now done!! I like to add it to about a cup of cooked rice. See it served here with some crusty French bread and a locally brewed Belgian style whitbier for a rich and hardy winter meal….

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GET YOU SOME OF THAT, HOPE YOU ENJOY !! .... TROUTMAN STEVE IS OUT !!!!
 

zippy12

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Ok Gumbo is on my todo list for Saturday. Its been over 6 months since I made a pot. Thanks for sharing!

*point!*

Side note: When i make chicken stock I save the chicken fat to use as my oil for the roux. Ups the taste!
 

paul nj shore

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that`s better than a cooking show I love Prudhomme What a great job with pixs I just hope the round bread gets into
the square corners of that plate !!! :D
 

tropics

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Steve Going to take your word that the slime can be cooked out,I would save time and omit it LOL then it would be Masarap LIKE
Richie
 

troutman

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Side note: When i make chicken stock I save the chicken fat to use as my oil for the roux. Ups the taste!
Lots of fat under the skin of those thighs plus the fat rendered in the oil I used for roux made it tasty. Thanks for the LIKE !!
 

gmc2003

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Troutman that's an incredible tutorial and history lesson. This is one dish I'm going to have to try.

Bookmarked, point for sure.

Chris
 

troutman

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Man that looks fantastic!
It is and it was....Thanks !!!

that`s better than a cooking show I love Prudhomme What a great job with pixs I just hope the round bread gets into
the square corners of that plate !!! :D
Prudhomme is the man !!! He even taught me how to fit that round bread peg into that square corner hole to sop up every last drop !!

Steve Going to take your word that the slime can be cooked out,I would save time and omit it LOL then it would be Masarap LIKE
Richie
Yea some folks just don't like okra, in that case substitute file powder. Thanks Richie !

Dang it man that looks good,,, nice job and great post
Thanks very much, I am passionate about Cajun cookin' !!
 

troutman

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Troutman that's an incredible tutorial and history lesson. This is one dish I'm going to have to try.

Bookmarked, point for sure.

Chris
Thanks Chris, was hoping folks would try this out and learn to cook one of the most authentic of American cuisines !!
 

tropics

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Steve I do use File when I make it,last ingredient added.
Richie
 

SmokinAl

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Your gumbo looks absolutely delicious!
I thought we made some awesome gumbo, but I think you have us beat!
Congrats on making the carousel!
Al
 

link

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That looks fantastic! I may have to try this sometime.

Thanks
 

motocrash

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Awesome looking Gumbo and great thread! A shout out to the French pot too,Viva LC.I love my 20+ year old trio of them.
Congratulations on the Carousel;)

Bill
 

checkdude

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I wanted to make gumbo forever! After this I have to do it. No more procrastination,! Coming this weekend it will be do. Going to the store now to get ingredients. Thank you for the write up.
 

mike5051

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Great gumbo and thread! I cook down my okra with the sausage until the slime is gone. I've never heard of fried chicken being added, but it seems like a great idea! This is very similar to my favorite gumbo with okra, chicken and shrimp. I also add a couple of pounds of crawfish tail meat.

Mike
 

troutman

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Your gumbo looks absolutely delicious!
I thought we made some awesome gumbo, but I think you have us beat!
Congrats on making the carousel!
Al
Gumbo is so universal, I'm sure your's is just as good!! Thanks for the props Al !!!

That looks fantastic! I may have to try this sometime.

Thanks
Soon the better, its Mardi Gras time !!!
 

troutman

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Awesome looking Gumbo and great thread! A shout out to the French pot too,Viva LC.I love my 20+ year old trio of them.
Congratulations on the Carousel;)

Bill
Yea the LC pots are awesome for sure, our collection continues to grow, best cookware on the planet ....

I wanted to make gumbo forever! After this I have to do it. No more procrastination,! Coming this weekend it will be do. Going to the store now to get ingredients. Thank you for the write up.
Great !!! Post some pix of the results .....

Great gumbo and thread! I cook down my okra with the sausage until the slime is gone. I've never heard of fried chicken being added, but it seems like a great idea! This is very similar to my favorite gumbo with okra, chicken and shrimp. I also add a couple of pounds of crawfish tail meat.

Mike
You know I also had some frozen tail meat but when I thawed it it smelled bad so I ditched it. That's the beauty of gumbo....everyone in the jacuzzi !!!! Thanks for the Cajun approval !!!!

YES!!! Best roux onda planet for gumbo!!! I do this too!
Thanks..... loved your rabbit piquant in the other thread ......

That looks great!
I never tried gumbo..
Try it Rings, its a crowd pleaser .....
 

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