It’s Mardi Gras time!!! King Cakes and Beads!!! And Gumbo!!
Well, neither Tonya nor I were born in Louisiana. We do not claim any Cajun allegiance. The last time either one of us were near Louisiana is when Tonya recently drove through the northern part of the state to visit friends in Sulphur, LA. That being said, we both have grown to appreciate good Cajun food over the years and certainly enjoy sampling various Cajun dishes whenever we have the chance.
Here’s the problem. We often find ourselves disappointed by some of the Cajun food offered at local restaurants. I’m not saying we are “Cajun food snobs” (wow, is there such a thing?) and there are certainly some excellent Cajun restaurants serving great Cajun cuisine around town. What has happened over time is that we have figured out that we can make many of the dishes at home and not to brag (but I will), we make a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo that rivals, or is better than anything you can get at many restaurants. In fact, we have served it to several friends from the State of LA and they are very complimentary of the gumbo and agree that its some of the best they have tasted!
One of the secrets? The ROUX!!! Yes, getting the roux just right can make the difference between a so-so gumbo and a rockin’ gumbo. Roux is a mixture of flour and oil that is used for thickening. The key is getting the roux dark enough, which takes patience while you constantly stir the mixture over medium heat to avoid scorching. There is a time element involved but it is worth it! I think this is the main reason that a lot of gumbo found at restaurants is a little lacking…they don’t spend the time with the roux and this results in a thin and watery gumbo that may only be helped with plenty of hot sauce.
Another secret? Plan ahead. This is one of those recipes where you have to set aside some time for preparation. Tonya and I have a system that has us sharing the roux stirring while the other works on cutting vegetables or browning the sausage and cooking the chicken.
Keep in mind that this is our version of Cajun gumbo. There are many versions of gumbo such as Creole gumbo that usually contains seafood, so feel free to experiment by adding shrimp or craw fish. Just make sure you include the Holy Trinity: onions, celery and peppers!
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
1 lb smoked sausage (andouille, turkey sausage or kielbasa)
3-4 lb whole chicken, cut up
¼ cup Vegetable oil
½ cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups frozen okra
2 qts water
2 tbsp creole seasoning
1/8 tsp hot sauce
½ cup green onion, chopped
¼ cup parsley, chopped
Hot cooked rice
Slice and quarter sausage, brown in heavy pot, remove and set aside. Brown chicken in sausage drippings, remove from pot and set aside. Combine vegetable oil and flour in pot, stir CONSTANTLY over medium heat until dark brown – like dark chocolate but be careful not to burn. Add onion, celery, peppers and garlic. Cook until tender. Add water, simmer for 45 minutes. Add chicken, creole seasoning and hot sauce. Cook uncovered for an hour. Remove chicken. Add okra, green onions and parsley. Debone chicken, chop and add back to gumbo along with sausage. Heat thoroughly and add parsley. Season to taste with additional creole seasoning or hot sauce and serve over hot rice.
This is the spot where I usually recommend a beer I think would go good with the dish…or just talk about a beer I like… but I want to also mention a hot sauce. The last time we made gumbo we tried a new hot sauce called Double Dog Dare Ya! It’s a hot sauce made from ghost peppers and is ‘literally’ one of the hottest sauces I have tasted! It comes from Hillbilly Gourmet out of Louisville and just a few drops will light you up! It’s even hotter than their Dare Ya! sauce which comes in at 1.2 million on the Scoville scale. (click here to link to their hot webpage)
Now for a beer. You would think I would suggest a beer associated with Louisiana such
as Abita or Dixie Brewing but I want to rave about the beer I had recently called Cooter Brown American Brown Ale made by Jekyll Brewing located in Alpharetta GA. As it name suggests its a brown ale with a hint of chocolate and malt with mild hoppiness…just my style! (click here and let Jekyll show you their beads!)