It is Fat Tuesday, and what would the day be without a great gumbo? Well, if you live outside of official Mardi Gras land, you may not have planned properly for your celebration, or perhaps all of the talk in the media about Fat Tuesday and great Cajun food has just gotten you thinking—and craving—gumbo. If so, and you just don’t have time to cook all day long, here is an easier way to go, with really tasty results.
First, ditch the tomatoes. A lot of us think of gumbo as having tomatoes—I like gumbo with tomatoes—but a “real” gumbo, many Louisiana-style gumbo lovers indicate, does not have tomatoes. So, you will not find tomatoes in this recipe today. And, you know what? It’s great!
I tried this recipe awhile back, when it was cold outside and it just seemed like great soup weather, but I did not want soup. I used a chicken Andouille sausage with mine. It was the first time I had found it in my local grocery store and it was fantastic. Otherwise, I would have probably used a chicken or turkey smoked sausage. Use your favorite. And, if you want to add shrimp or other seafood, I would do so near the end—typically it only needs a few minutes to cook. Use your cooking judgment on this one!
And, like a lot of you no doubt, the roux scared me. Now, I know how to make a roux—I am from the South, after all, and you gotta have roux to make gravy. But, I’ve never made a roux for a gumbo, and never this dark. So, just keep cooking, but keep stirring. You are going for a roux about the color of chocolate milk, although I do know some people will cook it until it is even darker, more like chocolate pudding—but I’m not brave enough to go there yet. Also, if you don’t want your gumbo really thick, decrease the roux by half (1/2 cup vegetable oil to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour).
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 pound andouille or smoked sausage, sliced into bite-sized pieces
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika (I like Spanish paprika, but regular is fine)
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium Worcestershire sauce
Pepper sauce to taste (remember, people will no doubt be adding this at the table, so about a tsp. will probably do it in the recipe)
File powder to taste (I used ½ tsp.; some people will also want to add this at the table)
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 whole chicken, boned and shredded (Easy option: A rotisserie chicken from your local market)
2 cups frozen okra
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. When hot, whisk in flour. Continue whisking until the roux has cooked to the color of chocolate milk, which should take about 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the roux—do not raise the temperature to speed cooking, do not overheat and keep stirring! If you do burn the roux? Start over, or you'll have a funky burned taste throughout your gumbo, and who wants that?
Stir onion, bell pepper, celery, and sausage into the roux; lower heat and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add seasonings and blend thoroughly. Pour in the chicken broth. Stir, then add the bay leaf. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken and simmer another 30 minutes. Add okra and simmer 30 more minutes. Skim off any foam that forms on the top before serving as is or over rice.
Image: Wikimedia Commons