There are many different versions of gumbo and each family or chef has their favorite. For some, it’s not gumbo if it doesn’t have okra. For others, it simply must have file, also a thickener. File can get stringy if you heat it too much. The roux not only thickens, but it adds a wonderful, nutty flavor and gives the gumbo a gorgeous, deep brown color.
You can use any seafood you like or chicken, but the trinity (the onions, celery and peppers) and the roux are essential. How much cayenne you use will likely depend on how spicy your Andouille sausage is. The amount of pepper in this recipe is considered perfect for ALL – adjust the heat to your liking in your own bowl. My dad always said, if your brow doesn’t sweat, it’s not hot enough – I tend to agree!
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
2 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 1/2 cups Basic Seafood or Chicken Stock (can substitute oyster liquor)
1 pound Andouille smoked sausage (preferred) or any other good pure smoked pork sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound peeled medium shrimp
1 dozen medium oysters in their liquor, about 9 ounces
3/4 pound crabmeat (picked over) or crawfish – I also like a few crab claws in my seafood gumbo.
Optional: You can, instead of seafood, use chicken. Chicken and Sausage gumbo is very savory and just as delicious.
Hot cooked rice
Frozen chopped Okra
Tabasco, File, Cayenne Pepper – have these on the table for personal use
Chop the onions, bell peppers and celery and set aside. In a small bowl combine the seasoning mix ingredients; mix well and set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy iron skillet over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the flour, whisking constantly with a long-handled metal whisk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until roux is dark red-brown to black, being careful not to let it scorch or splash on your skin. Making the roux is where you want to be super patient. DO NOT WALK AWAY.
While the roux is cooking or the day before; cook your chicken and stock. First, season your chicken parts generously with salt, black pepper and Cayenne. Place the chicken parts in a large pot with quartered onions, 2 carrots, quartered celery, 2 bay leaves and 8 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.
Take the chicken out of the pot and when it’s cool, remove the fat and pick the meat off the bones and cut into pieces. When the broth is cool, strain and throw out the vegetables. You should have about 8 quarts stock.
This is where my gumbo technique differs from others: I like to sauté my sausage in a separate iron skillet (not the same one I cooked the roux in) and stir in the seasoning mix and continue cooking about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. I believe this process brings out the flavors of the seasonings better. Add the garlic; stir well, then cook and stir about 1 minute more. Remove the sausage and ‘goodness’ from the skillet – add to the stock pot. Add the vegetables to the same skillet you cooked the roux in. The vegetables will cool it down quickly, but also help make your roux dark. Stir well (switch to a spoon if necessary). Continue stirring and cooking until vegetables are just right. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, place the stock in a 5 1/2-quart saucepan or large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Add roux and vegetables by spoonfuls to the boiling stock, stirring until dissolved between each addition. Bring mixture to a boil. Add the andouille; return to a boil; continue boiling 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes more. Add the shrimp, undrained oysters and crabmeat – or chicken. Return to a boil over high heat, for 2 minutes ONLY – stirring occasionally. Immediately remove from heat and add 2-4 cups frozen cut okra. Skim any oil from the surface.
To serve as a main course, mound 1/2 cup rice in the middle of each serving bowl. Spoon 1 cup gumbo over the top, making sure each person gets an assortment of the seafood and Andouille. Serve half this amount in a cup as an appetizer.