Cooler weather is finally hitting Southeast Texas, and that means GUMBO! Gumbo is a Cajun food, which you should always try if you get a chance! (In case you don’t know, Cajuns are the people of French from South Louisiana, chere, who are known for their good food and joie de vivre!)
I’ll print easy, all-in-one-place directions at the bottom.
Start with chicken pieces or, if you really want to be authentic, boil a hen. Hens are richer and the meat will hold its flavor. It’s more trouble of course, because you have the skin and bones to remove, but if you’ve got the time, it’s worth it! However, I used breasts and thighs. I boiled half, so I could get broth, and roasted the others, to hold on to more flavor. I had boiled the chicken the night before so I had it chopped and had the broth in a pitcher.
To boil, cover chicken completely with water in a tall stock pot. Salt and pepper liberally!
To roast chicken, line a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with tall edges) with parchment or foil for easy cleanup. Spray the roasting rack with Pam. If you don’t have one of these gizmos, get one ASAP! They are great for roasting meat and veggies!
Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, then roast at 400 35-50 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and make sure the meat gets to 180 degrees. Boneless meat like these thighs will cook faster than bone-in parts like the breasts. If you don’t have a meat thermometer either, you need to get to the store!
Next chop a large onion and 4 or 5 stalks of celery. My son the chef introduced me to a chef’s knife like the one above. I was a little scared to use one, till he brought his and gave me an inservice. Now I love it! You keep your fingers well out of the way- just rock it up and down and keep your hand on top. Along with a meat thermometer and roasting pan with rack, a good knife is a MUST in the kitchen! Go ahead and invest in a Wusthof or something comparable. It might run $100, but it will last forever. Keep it sharp. It’ll change your life.
You can see, you need a lot of onion!
You can chop a lot of celery with a big knife!
After the onion and celery cook a bit, add some garlic. Lay your knife on top of the clove and smash it! Then mince it.
While the veggies are cooking down, begin chopping up the meat. We like ours in fairly small bite sizes; cut them like your family likes. Again, with a big, sharp knife, you can make quick work of the chicken and sausage! This gumbo was a 3-night- affair, so most of my chicken was already cooked and chopped. I just had to debone and chop the roasted breasts. Here’s a handy hint: If you boil your chicken ahead of time, refrigerate the broth; the fat will solidify on the top and you can remove most of it easily.
Now I think the roux is what scares people about making gumbo. I’ve made traditional roux, roux with browned flour only, and jarred roux mix, and I promise, I like the jar as well as any other, and it’s much less time-consuming! There is a trick though, you must get your broth to a FULL, ROLLING boil when you add the mix, or it will never dissolve. Follow the directions for the amount to use. If you like thicker broth, add more; for thinner add less. Then stir, stir, stir! This is the color to expect when it’s blended: I’ve heard it described as a melted Hershey bar.
Once your roux is smooth, add the veggies and the meat, then let it simmer a bit.
Serve it up over rice, and if you are really feeling Cajun, plop some potato salad into your bowl! (I’ve talked to my Cajun friend Peggy and she says it’s so you can get your gumbo and potato salad, but have a free hand for your dessert!)
MMM! C’est si bon!
Auntie Em’s Famous Gumbo (serves at least 12– great for freezer meals!)
Boil 1/2 large pkg chicken breasts and 1/2 large pkg chicken thighs.
Roast the rest of the chicken at 400 degrees.
Chop all cooked chicken into desired size.
Chop 1 large onion, 4-5 large stalks celery. Sautee with 1 stick butter in heavy skillet. Add a large clove of minced garlic. Cook till soft and transparent.
Bring chicken broth to a full, rolling boil. Add roux mix. (I use Savoie’s or Tony Chachere’s.)
When roux is smooth, add meats and veggies. Simmer, covered as long as you can stand it.
Serve over rice, and add potato salad for a Cajun experience! Find a Cajun music channel on Pandora and l’aissez les bon temps roulez, chere!