Sunday, December 5, 2010


Recent travel has put into my head a new challenge. Gotten it into my noggin that Louisiana gumbo is a delicacy that by hook or crook must be added to my stovetop skills. For the sake of those one or two anonymous readers of these pages living in Bosnia and Finland, better that I explain what this ‘gumbo’ is. More than anything else, gumbo could be called Louisiana’s signature dish. One definition describes it as: ‘a soup thickened with okra pods or filé and containing meat or seafoods and usually vegetables.’ The only thing is, there are enough varieties of gumbo to fill up a cookbook. Recipes vary according to the area of Louisiana, and from restaurant to restaurant. Those living along the Gulf of Mexico and the countless bays that wrinkle Louisiana’s southern coast favor a gumbo of crabs, oysters and shrimp. Slightly north, on the prairies and bayous of south and southwestern Louisiana, the Acadian people prefer a gumbo made with chicken and sausage. You could eat gumbo every day in New Orleans alone and experience a different flavor and style every one of those days. In her book, Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, Sara Roahen describes the dozens and more subtleties she has discovered in her study of this Louisiana staple.

Novice that I am, the first goal in my challenge is to learn the basics. I have a sister who could impress the Michelin Guide committee with her cooking and she has loaned me a book to get started with. It’s a collection of recipes from The Times Picayune of New Orleans called Cooking Up a Storm.

Before detailing the recipe for chicken and sausage gumbo from that book, let me explain that the gumbo in the photo here is NOT that recipe, but my sister’s own recipe, which comes from her head as she cooks. She has assured me that the recipe below is an excellent start for those learning to make this Louisiana favorite.



1 chicken (4-5 lbs) cut into serving pieces


Cayenne pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

½ cup chopped celery

About 2½ quarts chicken broth

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon thyme

1 lb andouille sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick

¼ cup chopped green onions—both white and green parts

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Hot cooked rice for serving

What to do with it all:

Season the chicken generously with salt and cayenne and set aside. In a large Dutch oven, make a roux by combining the oil and flour over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook for about 30 minutes, or until the roux is dark brown. Add the onions, bell peppers and celery and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft.

Add the broth and stir to blend well. Add the chicken, bay leaves and thyme. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for about 2 to 3 hours, or until the chicken is fork tender. Add the andouille and cook for another 30 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and add the green onions and parsley. Remove the bay leaves. Serve immediately over rice.

This gumbo cook-up is on my to-do list, and I only hope it turns out to be as good as the gumbo from my sister’s kitchen. For those who have never had the experience of gumbo, give this recipe a whirl. Guaranteed you will like it.

1 comment:

  1. That gumbo looks good enough to eat! Hope you do make the recipe yourself and see that it is not as hard as people think and that every person puts their own "touch" to their gumbo. Blessings as you chop chop chop and remember "first you make a roux". Beverly


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America