|Classic Chicken and Sausage Gumbo|
Every marriage is defined by a division of duties. In some, the husband is responsible for the ‘manly’ tasks, such as taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn and cleaning out the gutters, while the wife stays in the house and cooks, cleans, and looks after things. But thankfully, for Mr. B and I, our marriage is all mixed up and twisted into at least 20 different directions.
Mr. B likes to cook, too and when I hear him in the kitchen rattling the pans while WWOZ plays loudly in the background, I know that I’m going to eat well. He’s got too much French blood circulating through this veins to ever let me down.
Usually, Mr. B is responsible for making gumbo in our household, but last weekend with too many good college games on the television to count, Mr. B asked if I wouldn’t mind taking over the gumbo making.
Mind you, Mr. B has honed his gumbo making skills to near perfection by practicing a rather unusual technique for making his roux. Instead of the traditional method of standing over the stove and stirring hot oil and flour together until it reaches an appropriate hue, Mr. B spreads his flour out on a cookie sheet and bakes it until it turns golden brown and perfumes up the whole house with its nuttiness.
“Of course I’ll make the gumbo,” I told him, “but I’m going old school.”
Because really, for me anyway, part of the fun of making gumbo is in making the roux. Combining equal parts of oil and flour together and literally bringing it to a boil is an exhilarating experience–there’s no looking away, there’s no taking a break, there’s only the dangerously hot mixture turning shades darker. There’s an art to knowing how far to push things, how long to cook the roux, because in an instant, you can go from beautiful to burnt.
Everyone has an opinion on the best color of a roux, from peanut butter to milk chocolate to dark mahogany and of course, it depends on what kind of gumbo you’re making. For me, I like to take it a little longer to a gorgeous deep brown.
And while there’s a trick to the making a good roux, after that, making gumbo is pretty darn easy and will provide enough incredible deliciousness to last a few days. Finally, there’s probably nothing that goes better with a day of college football than a pot of gumbo–at least that’s true in our world.
Mel’s Old School Gumbo
* This is far from an original recipe–this is just the essence of good gumbo making.
1 whole chicken, cleaned well; salt the inside cavity
4 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
handful of celery leaves, coarsely chopped
1 onion, quartered
1 large bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
4-5 stalks of leafy celery, washed and finely chopped (leaves and all)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
5 bay leaves
2 lbs of good andouille sausage, thickly sliced
Crystal’s hot sauce
salt and pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
hot cooked white rice
chopped flat leaf parsley
chopped green onion tops
1. Place the chicken, peppercorns, 4 bay leaves, garlic, celery leaves and quartered onion into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is falling off o the bones.
2. Remove chicken from the pot; strain and reserve the broth. Meanwhile, pick the chicken, discarding the bones and skin; set the chicken off to the side.
3. In a heavy cast iron stock pot, mix the oil flour together and heat over medium high heat–STIRRING CONSTANTLY–until a deep brown shade of peanut butter.
4. Immediately add the chopped vegetables to the hot roux–this stops the roux from cooking and the vegetables flavor the roux. Carefully add a little of the reserved stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables wilt; stir in the remaining stock.
5. Add the reserved chicken, andouille and bay leaves and reduce the heat to a simmer.
6. Cook 4-6 hours, skimming occasionally..
7. Season with salt and pepper and Crystal’s hot sauce.
8. Ladle into shallow bowls, add a scoop of steamed rice and top with parsley and green onions.
Best served with icy cold beers and hot French bread.