Our spring weather hasn’t been very cooperative the last few days and Sunday was no exception. It was the perfect blustery, rainy and cold spring day to spend in the kitchen preparing a delicious Cajun Gumbo. Deep in flavor, combined with savory veggies and Cajun spices, it is the perfect Fall, Winter and early Spring meal.
I love a good Gumbo! And honestly, I don’t think I’ve had a spectacular Gumbo since I left Louisiana. Ranger Craig and I lived in Cajun territory ”BK” (before kids) for several years. It was an absolute blast! It’s one of the most unique states I’ve ever had the privilege to live, and the people are just as warm and friendly as the food they prepare.
Gumbo is definitely one of the most well-known foods from Louisiana, and many of the Southern states will have their own regional and ancestral recipes for this divine stew. Growing up not far from Louisiana (the great state of Arkansas!), I had the opportunity to sample those delicious ancestral Gumbos from many of our family friends kitchens.
After many, many Gumbos from my kitchen, I think I’ve now simplified a recipe I think most home Chef’s will love to prepare. Gumbo’s are not a quick weeknight meal, unless you begin at 3pm. However, for a fabulous weekend meal this Gumbo will hit the spot. And don’t be deterred by the list of ingredients. Truly, this Gumbo is easy to prepare. Just take your time, be patient with your roux and you’ll end up with a delicious and easy Gumbo.
In the spirit of all things Cajun… Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! Happy Cooking!
Prep and Cook Time: 1 ½ -2 hours (or faster when you’ve prepared this a few times)
½ cup oil (peanut oil is traditional, however I use a high heat oil such as sunflower or safflower)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 medium to large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
5 cups chicken broth (I like Imagine Brand Broths)
2 cups diced roasted chicken
1 tablespoon Emeril’s Essence seasoning
1 cup diced Cajun Andouille sausage, Chorizo sausage or smoked sausage
1 cup bay shrimp
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked white rice
¼ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ teaspoon Gumbo File powder (for thickening)
Note: Cajun Andouille sausage is often difficult to find unless you live in the Southern regions of the US. However, my fish market, Gemini Fish Market in Issaquah, will often fly in fresh crawfish and Cajun Andouille sausage for crawfish boils. Just ask your local fish market or meat market to order, or substitute with Chorizo or a good quality smoked sausage.
The Roux: A roux is the cornerstone to a good Gumbo. Believe me when I tell you that your Gumbo will not have that excellent Gumbo flavor unless you’ve taken the time to prepare the roux. A roux is very easy; it just takes a little patience.
While you are making the roux be prepared to be constantly stirring. Don’t leave your roux or it could burn. And then you’ll have to start over. Be sure to have your chopped onions close by as you’ll need to add those just as soon as you reach the dark chocolate color in your roux.
Put the oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Do not use a non-stick pan. Allow the oil to heat until it is smoking hot and shimmering, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the flour gradually and begin stirring constantly. Keep the roux moving at all times.
The roux will go through several stages of color. The first roux is blonde and this roux is often used for gravies. The next color is tan or a peanut butter color; this will take about 8-10 minutes to develop. The color you want to achieve is a very dark brown color that looks like a dark chocolate. Although, don’t cook the roux so long that it burns. This should take about 20 minutes.
Once you have achieved the perfect dark roux, immediately add the onions to cool the roux and keep it from burning. This will also allow the onions to steam and then caramelize. Stir the onions for several minutes, and then add the celery and bell pepper. Continue to stir the roux and veggies until the veggies become soft, about 6-8 minutes.
Next add the chicken broth and whisk into a smooth soup/stew base. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down and add the essence seasoning and then let the base simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add the diced chicken and sausage and taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, Tabasco, and additional essence seasoning as desired.
Let the chicken and sausage simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and stir. Before serving add in the chopped parsley and stir.
Mound about ½ cup cooked white rice in the middle of a soup/stew bowl. Ladle the gumbo over the top and garnish with green onion. Enjoy!
Gumbo can be prepared several days in advance or can be stored for up to 5 days. The longer it sits, the deeper the flavors. It also freezes well and can be re-heated in the microwave or stove top.
OPTIONS: You can use 3 cups broth and 2 cups dark beer in place of 5 cups broth. You can also substitute equal parts broth and water, as sometimes I underestimate how much broth I have on hand. I’ve also substituted with veggie broth which was just as delicious.