The pickle man

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (D's favorite meal)

This is my nine year old.

He doesn't eat (most) food that touches. In other words, he won't eat casseroles, (although if I save all the separate bits that go into a casserole and serve them, not touching, on a plate, he will eat them). Even beef stew must be served with the mashed potatoes or grits or rice on the side.

Etouffee? Pasta salad? Absolutely anything prepared in a crockpot? Don't even think about it. He'll be having a piece of fruit and peanut butter toast, thank you very much (because this mama doesn't make two meals).

He was not always this way.  A brief glance at the archives of this site show him happily devouring a variety of "touching" foods. But since roughly the time he became literate and started losing teeth, he has become quite particular.


One significant (*and one minor) exception to his "FOOD MUST NOT TOUCH" mantra has survived the onset of permanent teeth: gumbo -- which, as I remind him, is a whole lot of things touching.  But he's loved it forever.  Especially this gumbo.

There are as many gumbo recipes as there are cooks in this state. This is our favorite, mainly because it is easy enough that I can make it once a month.  I make a homemade roux, but I do use boxed broth and roasted chicken breasts instead of boiling the whole chicken because
1. I think it tastes better AND
2. I really don't like de-boning chicken, so I found that when I skipped this step, I made gumbo for my family a lot more.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced small**
1 green bell pepper, diced small
2 ribs celery, diced small
1 tablespoon (2 cloves) diced garlic
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock (you can make your own, but I usually cheat and don't)
1-2 cups water
1 cup sliced okra (can be frozen)
2 cups cooked chicken meat  (this can include roasted chicken breasts OR 4 thighs OR the meat from one small boiled or rotisserie chicken, shredded or cut into pieces)
2 links andouille sausage, browned in a skillet and drained (optional, but worth it)

salt and pepper to taste
red pepper to taste (I usually go light on this and add Tabasco to mine)

Method (and a lot of probably unnecessary commentary):

To start, as "my mamma and 'dem" say:  First, you make a roux.

Combine cold vegetable oil and flour in a cold pot.  Turn on the heat and begin whisking.  I use a flat whisk, but you can also use a wooden spoon or spatula.  Something flat to scrape the bottom of the pot helps.
There are two methods to heating your roux.  If you are a lazy and distracted stirrer, you can use the "low and slow" method my mom taught me.  That way, you only have to stir vigorously once the roux begins to pick up color.

If you're a bit more adventurous, turn up the heat.  Your arm will get a workout, but you'll have a roux in about 15-20 minutes.  Stir constantly and scrape the bottom of the pot with each stir.  Recruit your children. Talk your spouse into taking a turn while you move the clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Switch arms.  Think about the calories you are burning.  And stir.

Meanwhile (if you are a low/slow) or in advance, dice your vegetables.  I use a food processor because I like my vegetables really small (plus, I've got to save arm strength for stirring the roux).

Either way, if there are black chips in the roux, sorry to say you've burned it, but everyone has to burn at least one.  Turn on your vent, throw out the roux, wash your pot, and begin again.

When the roux is brown***, add the diced onion, bell pepper, and celery, stirring vigorously.  There will be steam.  Keep stirring.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently but not constantly, until the vegetables are tender. I usually add a little salt at this stage.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Begin adding the chicken stock in a steady stream, stopping to stir well to incorporate.  You can add water as needed to get to the consistency you like.  Add the bay leaves and red pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.  Add okra and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the meat and taste, seasoning as necessary. Simmer until ready to serve.

Serve over white rice with French bread and a green salad.  My husband also recommends saltine crackers.

This gumbo is even better made a day in advance and reheated.  It also freezes well.  I typically freeze it in quart bags, not overly full (so they can stack in the freezer).  Then, for a week night meal, all I have to do is run the bag under hot water while I make the rice, and reheat the defrosted gumbo in the microwave.

* The minor exception?  Lasagne verdi -- minor because he only gets to eat it about twice a year.
While he will at least try most gumbos (unless they have shrimp), he will absolutely only eat this one lasagna.
And (of course) it takes 6 hours, 3 friends, 2 homemade sauces, noodles that we crank out using a pasta roller, and at least one bottle of wine.

** These three ingredients (onion, celery, bell pepper) are the holy trinity of Cajun cooking (as my mama explained it).   I pulse them in my food processor until they are diced so fine that their texture disappears but their flavor remains.

*** (Allyson note) Brown? What do I mean by brown? First, a medium brown roux will get thicker than a dark brown roux.  Seems counterintuitive?  It did to me, too, the first time I read it.  But then we experimented and it proved true.  Also, darker roux is more prone to separate.  Soooo I typically shoot for Jif-peanut-butter-brown roux.  And yes, I get out the jar and compare.  I occasionally get brave (usually for seafood gumbo) and go for the Hershey's chocolate bar.  But the gumbo I make at least once a month? Peanut butter brown.

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