Louisiana Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp
This hearty dish satisfies with rich flavor and delivers a real taste of the South.
Food connects us to many memories, and for me, enjoying a bowl of gumbo transports me back to Louisiana. This recipe based on one by Louisiana chef Patrick Mould takes about two hours to make (add another hour if you’re making homemade roux), but it’s worth every minute you’ll spend in the kitchen. Authentic flavors in this gumbo are even better when rewarmed the next day. What better way to observe National Gumbo Day on Oct. 12?
Nearly 20 years ago, I had the great fortune to travel and eat my way through Louisiana. I was the editor of a new magazine for AAA members in the state, so what better way to get immersed in a culture than through its food? Time hasn’t dulled my memory of the savory meat pies in Natchitoches, Antoine’s oysters Rockefeller in New Orleans, and cracklins and boudin balls in Lafayette. It was during this trip that I met chef Mould, a wonderful guardian of Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun culinary recipes. He was so open with our group, eager to share his love and knowledge of Louisiana cooking.
That’s what impresses me about Louisiana cooks. Whether we’re talking about an award-winning chef or a seasoned home cook, they are so mindful about what they’re doing. Because food simply isn’t fuel for their bodies; it’s a form of artistic expression and a way of preserving a culture. The thought and care that goes into every dish inspire me to be better. And there's no better recipe for gumbo than this one.
For this recipe you will need:
1 stewing chicken
1 pound andouille sausage
1 pound frozen shrimp
14 cups water
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 bay leaves
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ chopped green pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce
1 cup dark roux
rice, green onion for serving
Let’s address the elephant in the room: the roux. Debate rages about making it yourself or buying it in a jar. According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, cooks for centuries have argued about how light or dark a roux (basically cooked fat and flour) should be. Similarly, there’s disagreement about tomatoes (in or out) and the thickness of gumbo. But everyone agrees that gumbo is as analogous to Louisiana as chili is to Texas.
I’ve made roux; the end result usually is blond in color (the darkest I’ve been able to go is tan). It’s a question of patience for me, because to make a dark chocolate-colored roux, a cook has to stand and stir for close to an hour, teetering close to burning the mixture and thus ending in disaster. I’m not that brave without an experienced Southern cook by my side to coach me through the process. So, it’s a jar of dark roux for me, which isn’t easy to find in my neck of the woods. A favorite of many cooks is Savoie’s old-fashioned dark roux. However, if you want to make your own, here’s a good recipe from the Acadiana Table website, which also sells its brand of prepared roux. There also are a variety of dried roux in pouches, consisting of the cooked flour, that many people dissolve in hot water before adding to their gumbo pot.
But before you need the roux, you’ll have to make the chicken stock for the gumbo. In a large stock pot, cover a cleaned, whole chicken (about 2½ pounds) with 14 cups of water. Add a tablespoon of Cajun seasoning and bay leaf. Bring water to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
Remove chicken to a board and allow to cool before breaking it down, discarding skin and shredding the meat. Strain the liquid and set it aside; you'll need 12 cups of the stock for your gumbo.
Let's start by setting a large (four-quart) pot over medium-high heat, brown the sausage and add the onion, celery, green pepper (the Cajun Holy Trinity) and garlic; cook for five minutes. Add reserved chicken stock and bring to a boil; add dark roux, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Hot sauce and remaining Cajun seasoning simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Coarsely chop the chicken and add, along with the shrimp, and simmer for 10 minutes.
The gumbo is served over a mound of white rice with green onion and parsley garnish (that’s optional).
I can't find andouille sausage. This Cajun-style sausage, while more available today thanks to Cajun cooking's popularity, may not be easily found in all markets. You could swap out a smoked sausage or even ham.
This makes a lot of gumbo! Can I freeze a portion? You bet! While the gumbo could be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, it's best to freeze leftovers. Like chili, gumbo tastes better reheated.
Gumbo has been a part of Louisiana’s food scene since the early 19th century. The variety of Southern gumbos can include wild game, oysters, crabs, veal or steak (to name but a short list of ingredients). You’d see some of these varieties in New Iberia, Louisiana, at its annual gumbo cook-off always on the second weekend of October (this year, it’s Oct. 9 and 10). The Southern Foodways Alliance offers a short, informative history about gumbo, as well as a Gumbo Trail to explore, on its website.
Since my first visit to Louisiana many years ago, I’ve learned to appreciate the complexities of this dish that go hand-in-hand with the familiar comforting qualities it offers. This classic Louisiana gumbo surely will add a little lagniappe (something extra) to your table.