Gumbo is a stew that was invented in Louisiana sometime before 1764, because there is a reference to gumbo in the notes about an interrogation of Julia (Comba), a slave questioned about her knowledge of a runaway slave named Louis, on September 4, 1764. The name may have come from an African word for okra or from a Native American word for sassafras, and both are used for thickening many gumbos.
What is known for certain is that millions of people love gumbo, and I am one of them. There are almost as many recipes for gumbos as there are cooks. This one is from Leon E. Soniat’s La Bouche Creole, the cookbook where I found my recipe for Shrimp Etouffée. It is full of flavor without being spicy hot unless you add lots of filé powder.
Though the list of ingredients is rather long, making gumbo is easy. The roux takes some time, but if you keep the heat low, you can prepare the vegetables and still have time to taste the wine you plan to serve for dinner. A gewürztraminer or riesling goes well with chicken and sausage gumbo. It should be chilled, so put the bottles in the fridge after the vegetables are simmering in the broth.
3 to 4 lbs. chicken cut into serving pieces
5 T vegetable oil or lard
6 T all-purpose flour
2 large onions (3 1/2 to 4”)
1 green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 large cloves garlic
1 1/2 lbs. andouille or smoked sausage
6 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp. crushed thyme
3 bay leaves
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
filé powder (optional)
Heat the oil or lard in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the chicken until the pieces are browned. Remove them from the pan and set them aside on paper towels on a platter or baking pan. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces and fry them for four or five minutes. Remove them from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon.
Reduce the heat to low and add the flour to the oil in the pan. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour with the oil and cook very slowly. Continue stirring and cooking until you have a brown roux about the color of milk chocolate. This can take up to a half hour.
Clean and chop the vegetables while the roux is cooking, stopping often to stir it. Remove the stem and root ends from the onions along with the dry outer layer and mince them into an eighth-inch dice. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Remove the stem, seeds and white membranes and chop the pepper into a quarter to half-inch dice. Chop the celery into half-inch pieces. Put the prepared vegetables into a bowl.
Add the chopped onions, pepper and celery to the roux and cook five or six minutes until the vegetables are limp.
Peel and mince the garlic. When the vegetables are limp, stir in the chicken stock, then add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, cayenne, basil, salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium and bring the pan to a boil while stirring continuously, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the gumbo for forty-five minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
Return the chicken and sausage to the Dutch oven and simmer the gumbo until the chicken is tender, usually twenty to thirty minutes.
Clean and chop the green onions into a quarter inch dice. When the chicken is done, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and stir in the onions. Cover and let the gumbo sit for ten to fifteen minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve in bowls over rice with a green salad and some good bread. Add a pinch or two of filé powder to each plateful if you wish.
NOTES: If you are confident about your skill at making roux, you can turn the heat up, stir like crazy and have it done in under ten minutes. But if you end up with a black mess and have to start over, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.