There is a photograph from Christmas 2012 of my husband and I cooking together. It’s one of my favorite photos of us. We are making roux for gumbo. My parents were hosting a Christmas party and we were contributing to the effort by making gumbo for 30 people.
In the photo, we both have wooden spoons in hand and I’m smiling as he peers into my pot and tells me something. I can’t say with certainty what he is telling me, but I’m willing to guess that he is advising me to keep stirring because my roux is not dark enough. The smile on my face is evidence that this is the third or fourth time he has told me this; he’ll tell me at least another 10 times that it needs to be darker and I know that the smile does not stay on my face.
My husband is serious about his gumbo. He gets this from his mother who makes a mean gumbo by which he judges all other gumbos that he tastes. And rightly so. Her gumbo features some combination of shrimp, sausage and dove swimming in a broth the deep, muddy color of swamp water. Topped with just a spoonful of rice and splashed generously with Tabasco sauce it is irresistibly good and I’ve never been able to limit myself to just one bowl.
I have never fooled myself into thinking that I could make a better bowl of gumbo than my mother-in-law, but I have determinedly pursued the more modest goal of making a roux that my husband would find dark enough.
This is no easy task. When it comes to roux, the man has patience. I’ve seen him slowly stir a roux for almost two hours in pursuit of mahogany brown perfection. You won’t find me stirring anywhere near that long. For me, the alchemy of turning fat and flour into a rich, flavorful base takes about 30 minutes and despite much less time devoted to the task I’ve heard not a word about it not being dark enough over my last couple of batches.
Roux is the most important part of making gumbo and the trickiest. Over the years, we’ve tested recipes for making roux with butter, duck fat, and bacon grease. I’ve reached the conclusion that vegetable oil, with some added sausage drippings for flavor, works best.
Note that after browning the sausage as instructed in the recipe below, you’ll be left with some brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. If you’d like to save this goodness, deglaze the pan with a little broth or wine and set the pan juices aside to add with the chicken broth later in the recipe. Then give the pan a good scrub. While I love the idea of incorporating those bits into my roux, I find that they tend to burn during the long roux-making process giving an otherwise delicious roux a bitter and burnt flavor.
This recipe makes enough gumbo for 12 people and while technically it could be halved I don’t recommend it. Good gumbo takes time, but luckily it freezes beautifully meaning that a little work now yields several weeks of delicious meals.
Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo – Printer Friendly Recipe
Since our marriage over 8 years ago, our holiday traditions have mostly been a hodgepodge of traditions followed by each of our families. However, the past couple of years we’ve gotten in the habit of making a big batch of gumbo to enjoy over the holidays. I like to think that Christmas gumbo will be a tradition that we continue for a long time to come.
2 lbs Andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons plus up to 1 cup vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 large celery ribs, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine
10 cups homemade or less-sodium chicken broth
4 teaspoons Creole seasoning (I like to use Tony Chachere’s)
3 Turkish bay leaves
1 whole (3 ½ to 4 ½ lb) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed
2 lbs (21/30 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Garnish: 1 bunch green onions, roots trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced
Serve with: long grain rice, hot sauce
Add two tablespoons vegetable oil to a very large Dutch oven (I use a 1 ½ gallon pot) and brown the sausage slices. Remove the sausage using a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour any sausage drippings into a measuring cup and add vegetable oil to equal 1 cup. Let the pot cool and then wash and dry it; I love brown bits but find they tend to burn and give my roux an off-taste during the long cooking time.
If you can’t part with the brown bits (I hear ya!), deglaze the pan using a little broth or red wine and set the pan juices aside to add to the gumbo with the chicken broth. Clean the pot and then proceed as directed with the recipe.
Add the cup of oil and drippings to the cleaned pot and heat over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is dark brown (30 to 40 minutes). Be very careful while stirring as roux is very hot and can cause serious burns.
Add the onion, celery and bell peppers. Cook until tender. Stir in the garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Carefully add the red wine and let it reduce for about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the Creole seasoning and bay leaves and then add the chicken pieces.
Let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Remove the chicken pieces and let them cool before shredding with a fork. While the chicken cools, return the sausage to the pot and let it cook for another 30 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken and let the gumbo simmer for an additional 20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Gumbo can be cooled and refrigerated for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months at this time.
When ready to serve, bring the mixture to a strong simmer and add the shrimp. Cook for 3 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through and then serve over rice and sprinkle with green onions. Make sure Tabasco is on the table. Enjoy!