Friday, February 11, 2011

Cooking Up a Storm

Back in December I began the process of learning how to make Louisiana gumbo. The reason for calling it a process stems from the refinement of flavors and difficulty of the roux. A gumbo with the best flavors is not very often something that develops without a bit of practice. To that end I’ve been practicing.

A post this last December explained what Louisiana’s signature dish is, but here’s a quick reminder…

There are dozens of different recipes for gumbo, but basically it is a soup thickened with okra or a roux and containing meat (chicken and sausage) or seafood and vegetables. Varieties of gumbo are hard to count because ingredients and preparation vary according to different areas of south Louisiana. The recipe that I have been working on is one popular in the southwestern parishes. It comes from a book titled Cooking Up a Storm and while not exceedingly difficult or requiring hard to get ingredients, the flavor gets better with practice. When I first wrote about gumbo last December I did not make the gumbo myself. The gumbo that time was my sister’s recipe, and pretty much her own since she is a Louisiana native and a five-star cook. She sampled my first attempt at the recipe below and called it “good.” That was several weeks back. Been more practice since then and just maybe she would now call my gumbo “better.” Here is the recipe from Cooking Up a Storm that I have been trying to get down just right.



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

Salt, cayenne pepper & Zatarain’s Cajun Seasoning

1 cup vegetable oil (best flavor comes from olive 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 with gumbo


Season the chicken with salt, cayenne and Zatarain’s and set aside. In a black cast iron skillet make a roux by combining the oil and flour over medium heat. Stirring CONSTANTLY, cook for about 30 minutes, or until the roux is caramel brown. Transfer the roux to a large soup pot, add the onions, bell peppers and celery and cook for 5 to 10 minutes on medium heat until the vegetables are 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 3 hours. The chicken should be falling off the bones. Add the andouille sausage and cook for another 30-45 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and add the green onions and parsley. Remove the bay leaves. Serve immediately over rice.

The most important part of the gumbo is the making of the roux—the olive oil and flour base. The recipe says to stir the roux constantly for thirty minutes. I’ve learned that in this case ‘constantly’ means just that—Do not stop stirring the roux for thirty minutes. Stop stirring and the roux will stick to the bottom of the skillet, will burn and will end up lumpy. The book suggests making the roux in a Dutch oven, but anyone from Louisiana will tell you that the best roux comes from a black cast iron skillet. I’ve tried both and get a better flavor from the cast iron skillet.

The recipe also explains that if andouille sausage is not available, another smoked sausage will serve as well. I disagree. The andouille pictured above is available at my supermarket and that’s in a small town. Look around for the andouille rather than another smoked sausage like kielbasa.

This last time, rather than serving French bread with the gumbo I tried cornbread from a packaged mix called Krusteaz Natural Honey Cornbread. Turned out to be a perfect match. The gumbo is best served over steamed white rice. A special Cajun-style treat, gumbo is especially good on a cold day. Not hard to make and it gets even better with practice.


  1. Hmm ... I am hungry. Done correctly it is one of the best dishes to come out of south Louisiana. As you said, tasty with unbeatable flavors and enough meat (seafood or otherwise) for enough delicious bulk to make a great one-item meal. For those in other parts of the country who don't cotton to the 30 minute constant stirring, there are some Louisiana-based ready-made roux products. Not as good as homemade but do make for a good gumbo.

  2. Beautiful pictures and makes one want to sit down for enjoyment. I know you now have an iron skillet to make the correct roux so I'm sure this gumbo was wonderful. Great post.

  3. Excellent post and excellent gumbo. We really enjoyed it and the cornbread. I was planning on asking for the recipes for both, but your blog supplied all the information I need. Now I'll just have to perfect the roux. I've made a roux many times before, but never had to stir it that long. It sounds like making risotto - constant stirring and vigilence- but so worth it! Great photos, too.

  4. I bought this cookbook JUST for this recipe. I am a fan of home canning, and have found that replacing the whole chicken with eight boneless, skinless chicken thighs helps the canning process.


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