Friday, August 23, 2013

Authentic Chicken and Sausage Gumbo!

Authentic Chicken and Sausage Gumbo


Lots of my MN friends have been bugging me for an “honest to goodness” step by step recipe that will take them to Gumbo Heaven.  I finally had the time to write this up, so here it is.  As with most instructions, I will caution you to read all the way through it once or twice before you head off to the store.  If you have questions, shoot me a comment or an email.  Also, this is more of an “event” than a recipe, it will involve lots of pots and pans and prep, so you may want to get the kids involved and make it a “thing” for a cold snowy Saturday.  If you want it for dinner, you’ll need to start cooking around noon.

Here is your ingredient list:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Two 3.5lb frying hens (whole)
  • 4lbs RAW Andouille Sausage (This is a tricky ingredient to find in Minnesota.  If you’re planning ahead, you can order it from the internet.  Cub Foods usually has it.  If you get stuck, you can substitute Hot Italian Sausage and 4 additional cloves of garlic)
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  • ¾ cup chopped green onions (tops included)
  • 1 14oz can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups chopped okra (frozen okra will do, but fresh is better if you can find some)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • Cooked white rice (for serving)
Here is your equipment list:
  • One large cast iron gumbo pot (I use a 2.5 gallon dutch oven).  It doesn’t “need” to be cast iron, but the even heating that a good cast iron pot (with a lid) yields is particularly helpful.  Generally for most people, this is the biggest pot they have in the house.
  • 4-cup Pyrex or glass bowl with a handle
  • Stock pot large enough to boil two chickens (this is probably your 2nd biggest pot)
  • Large Saute pan
  • Cutting board
  • Excellent, sharp knife
Prepping

The first thing you’ll need to do is prep all of your ingredients.  The veggies are easy, just chop them all into tiny pieces.  You mix the onion, bell pepper, and celery all together in a large bowl, but the remainder of the ingredients will have to live separately until it is time to assemble the pot.  For the sausage, you’ll need to cook it however you like it; I like to cook mine on the grill to bring in some smoky flavor.  You can pan fry it too, just be sure to pour out any of the fat that develops or you’ll be skimming it off the top of your gumbo later (yuk).  After it’s cooked, slice all of the sausage into bite sized disks and store them off in a bowl.

Boil the chickens in at least two gallons of salted water.  When the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees), carefully strain them out of the water and drop them into a sink full of cold water.  Peel the skin off, shred the meat (by hand), store the meat along with the sausage (they can share a bowl, they’re not racist) and return the bones to the stock pot and simmer until you have a nice rich chicken stock (another hour or so).  Season the stock to taste; it should taste very much like the base to your favorite chicken soup.  Strain all of the bones out, and keep the liquid chicken stock.  You can buy your own chicken stock if you want, but two gallons of it can get pretty expensive.  Besides, store-bought stock is loaded with sodium and you had to cook two chickens anyway, so why not use authentic stock?

Stirring the Roux

Note:  The Roux is the single most important ingredient in Gumbo.  Do not take it lightly, and do not take shortcuts with it.  You should know, it's a pain in the ass to make it properly; but it's a skill any good cook needs so you should try it!  If you'd rather not bother, I recommend Bootsie's Roux, sold by the Mason Jar from the Cajun Grocer.

Any good gumbo starts with a roux (pronounced “Rooh”).  In fact, most good Cajun dishes start with a roux (Jambalaya, Etoufee, Gumbo, etc).  The roux gives color, base of flavor, and most importantly, it serves to thicken the dish.  The roux is what makes this dish a “gumbo,” rather than a “soup.”  It’s important and it shouldn’t be trifled with.  Traditionally, it takes hours to stir a roux properly.  What’s happening is, you’re mixing flour with oil and very slowly, you’re burning the flour.  This is what gives color and flavor.  If you burn it too quickly, it will scorch and you’ll have to start over.  Gumbo “purists” will whisk a roux over a very low heat in a cast iron pan for the three or four hours it takes to turn a roux that gorgeous dark red brick color that we want.  Modern technology has brought us the microwave and I’ve developed a successful method to create an excellent roux using it.

Mix your cup of oil and flour in a glass bowl (I use a pyrex bowl because it has a handle and this bowl will get super-crazy-napalm HOT so don’t say I didn’t warn you).  Use a wire whisk to stir the oil/flour mixture together until it’s a nice uniform consistency.  Now, microwave it on high, uncovered, for 6 minutes.  Pull it out and stir it up until it has the same uniform consistency that it did when you started.  It will be a “dark blonde” at this point.  Our goal is a dark red brick color so, nuke it again for 30 second intervals, stirring like crazy each time.  If the mix separates a bit too much, add a teaspoon or two of oil to bring it back together.  BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU’RE STIRRING THE ROUX!!  It is “rocket hot” so if you splatter any drops up onto your forearms, it will stick and it will blister and it will suck and you will be tempted to drop the bowl which will ruin your gumbo and your day (and your ankles, shoes, shins, etc).  Stir slowly, carefully, often, and with confidence.

When you finally reach the desired dark red color (no more than 8 or 9 minutes of microwaving total), transfer the roux to the big cast iron gumbo pot, turn the heat on, and keep stirring.  You’ll want to maintain the consistency as you transfer it to the pot but for heaven’s sake, be careful because the stuff is hot hot hot!  You’re ready to move to the next step, but keep an eye on it and keep stirring.

Assembly of the pot

Get your sauté pan out and spread some olive oil or butter in the bottom, then sauté the Cajun trinity (your big bowl of peppers, celery, and onions).  Stir and sauté until the onions clarify.  Slowly, stir it into the roux in the Gumbo pot (add a cup at a time).  The roux is still hot and it will sizzle and complain, but that’s part of the fun!  Now add a cup or two of your chicken stock and bring the heat up to a boil.  Stir slowly and add the garlic, okra, parsley, and tomatoes.  There’s a trick to adding the tomatoes, squeeze each one into a messy pulp before you drop them in.  You don’t want little red round orbs in your gumbo.  This is a fine job for the kids!  Let this mix come together over a boil for a few minutes, and then add all of the meat.  Stir it all together, and finally, pour in enough chicken stock to cover everything.  Stir it together and give it a look.  What does it need?  Is it too “chunky?”  Add more stock… Add the pepper sauce and the Worcestershire sauce.  Stir, stir, stir, and taste it.  If it needs salt or pepper, now is the time to adjust it.

Simmering

The roux will need time to thicken the dish up, so a good bit of simmering will be required.  Once the pot is fully assembled, you’ll need to adjust the heat until the pot is just barely bubbling and simmering (In St. Louis county, MN, we call this “Gonkulating”).  Lid her up and let her gonkulate for two to four hours so all of the flavors come together.  Stir fairly often to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  This is a great time/opportunity to clean up the epic mess you’ve made of your kitchen!



Serving

Gumbo is traditionally served with rice.  I like to take a deep dinner plate, place a scoop of rice in the center, and then ladle the gumbo around the outside, garnishing with a dash of parsley or Gumbo Filet over the rice in the middle.  A stout gravy ladle is best for serving.

Freezing

Gumbo freezes remarkably well.  I scoop the leftovers into zip-top bags and freeze the bags.  When you want to reheat one, just pop the top off the bag, place the bag in a bowl, and microwave for a few seconds until you can pour out your bag prior to a full reheating in the oven, stovetop, or microwave.

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