Louisiana Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp

Next week is Mardi Gras, and besides actually going to New Orleans, the best thing I can think of is home cooked Gumbo.  Gumbo is thick soup, and the thickness comes from roux, file powder, okra, or a combo.  I’ve made it different ways, and I like roux with okra.  I also add bacon which enhances any meaty soup or stew, and I like genuine Andouille sausage, plus chicken thighs and shrimp. If you don’t care for Andouille, you can use mild Italian Sausage, but brown it with your chicken instead of just putting it the stock.

Louisiana Gumbo

8 oz smoked bacon, diced

4 large (or 6 small) boneless chicken thighs (about 1 lb), cut into 1 inch cubes

½ to ¾ cup vegetable oil (peanut, canola, etc. – not olive)

1 cup flour

2 sweet onions, diced

4 large ribs celery, diced

2 large green pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 cup dry white wine

6 cups chicken stock (plus water if needed)

2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes with liquid (I use Muir Glen fire roasted)

1 lb Andouille sausage

1 lb frozen sliced okra (or use fresh and slice into disks)

½ tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you dare, or make it hotter later with hot sauce)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced)

2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2  tsp black pepper

4 bay leaves

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt to taste (your bacon, sausage, stock, and tomatoes may already have enough salt – so check)

Minced fresh Italian parsley and green onion tops

Steamed (or boiled) rice

Using a 10 qt or larger Dutch oven (13 qt is better) (Le Crueset or similar), brown the bacon in a little oil.  Remove cooked bacon with slotted spoon to a plate.  Add a bit more oil if needed, and brown the chicken.  Remove to a plate (you can co-mingle chicken with the bacon!)

Now you are making roux.  Add in enough oil to make about a cup of fat in the pan, and add 1 cup flour.  Lower the heat to medium, and stir regularly.  You may not let this scorch (if you do start over)!  For gumbo, I like a medium roux, like a café au lait at Café du Monde, but many like it darker – the color of milk chocolate.  Depending on your stove, it may take 15 to 30 minutes to get the roux just right.  Add more oil or flour to keep it like wet mud – when you run your spoon through, it should make a ridge that then melts right back into the mud!

When the roux is done, add celery, green pepper, onions, and cook about 10 minutes until veggies begin to be soft.  Add garlic, cook 2 more minutes to infuse the flavor.  Add white wine and let alcohol cook off, about 2 minutes.  Add stock and tomatoes.  Add seasonings, and add back in chicken and bacon.  Add sausage. When back to a low boil, lower the heat to just a simmer.  Cook about 45 minutes, uncovered, or longer if desired, stirring occasionally.  If broth is too thick, add more stock.  Add okra and cook 15 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook 15 minutes more.  (Total cooking time from browning bacon to done is about 2 hours 15 min.).  Adjust seasoning. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve over rice, garnish with chopped parsley and green onion tops.  Have hot sauce nearby for the brave souls.

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