Although I live in California now, I was born and raised in Louisiana, and as they say, "You can take a southern girl out of the south, but you can never take the south out of a girl"...or something like that.
For me, the best way to stay connected with my Cajun Country roots is through food. Nothing quite compares with some good ole' Cajun cookin'. It fills up your belly and your soul with joy. Louisianians are known for their deep passion for cooking, and puttin a whole lotta love into every dish. I'm lucky enough to have learned some classic dishes from my granny and other family members which help me to stay inspired and connected with my unique culinary heritage.
Well, this recipe is a combination of my granny's gumbo, a recipe from Emeril Lagasse and a few of my own personal touches. And Y'all - it is GOOD! No matter how big of a pot I make - it always gets eaten.
- 1 cup veggie oil and 1/4 cup of butter
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1 pound smoked Andouille sausage sliced into rounds
- 1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken (I use a mix of thighs and breasts) cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic (about 2 or 3 large cloves)
- 6 cups chicken stock or water
- 2 cups rice
- (optional - 1 chopped jalapeno for extra kick)
- 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon of Slap Ya Mama seasoning (if you don't have this don't worry - just add some more cayenne pepper and maybe a dash of hot sauce like Tobasco)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- chopped green onion for garnish and a dash of gumbo file powder to thicken the sauce
I always start with prepping all my ingredients - get everything chopped and ready to go! I cut up all the veggies and put them together in a bowl. Add some salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and a dash of Slap Ya Mama to the chicken and let sit at room temp for about 15 mins in a glass dish.
In a large cast iron Dutch oven melt a dollop of butter over medium heat. Then when the pan is nice and hot add sausage and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes until just brown on both sides. Then remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Now to make the roux (the most important part) add the vegetable oil and flour to the pan, along with the remaining butter. Stir frequently until the mixture is a deep chocolate brown color - should take about 20 mins to get it perfect. This is where you stand there in your apron and stir the pot constantly - with a lot of love! After you have put all your love into the roux and it looks like a dark brown gravy - now you add in all your veggies. Cook the veggies down for about 10 mins until softened. Add in the sugar and half the seasoning, except the salt.
Once the veggies are cooked down, add in seasoned chicken and cook for about 2 mins. Add in the rest of the seasoning. Now add in chicken stock and make sure that the chicken is about 1 inch below the liquid. Add some water if you need more liquid. Bring to a boil then turn the heat to low and cook uncovered for about 45 mins to an hour, stirring occasionally. In the last 15 mins of cook time, add in the cooked sausage, and a dash of file powder to thicken. Then taste the gumbo and add salt to your liking. At this point you may want to add a little extra 'love' in there too - and by that I mean cayenne pepper or hot sauce. (Sometimes if I am feeling in an extra spicy mood I chop a jalapeno and throw it in with the veggies at the beginning).
Serve over rice with some yummy French bread and garnish with green onions.
Bon Appetit! Enjoy Y'all!!
Side note: My husband doesn't like seafood (tragic!) so I make this version for my family - but if I have some seafood lovin' company over, I scoop half of the cooked gumbo into another big pot and add in some peeled, de-veined shrimp and cook on medium heat for 10 mins until the shrimp are nice and pink. Yummy!