Monday, September 16, 2013

Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo

Ahh, gumbo.  You make me smile.

I am very proudly half Cajun.  And that half of me loves some Cajun food.  Oh, who am I kidding.  All 100% of me loves Cajun food.  Or Creole food.  Or anything cooked in Louisiana.  So much so, that we Honeymooned in New Orleans.  I ate gumbo 3 times that week.

My husband has been begging me since we met to make him gumbo.  I'm Cajun. I'm supposed to just automatically know how to make it.  It's in my blood, right? Hahahahahaha!  He's so funny. Last night, during Go Go Gadget Free Sunday, I made gumbo for the very first time in my life.  And since it was Go Go Gadget Free Sunday, I couldn't google anything or look it up on Pinterest.  (Dang it!)  I went to my second best resource: My recipe cards from culinary school and my cookbooks.  After looking at them, I decided to combine two recipes into one that worked for me.

The first step to any good gumbo is Happy Hour.  Seriously... since it takes a while to cook, no sense in being hungry!  My husband and I decided to have Sushi and Sake for our happy hour.  It was delicious.  But if sushi isn't your thing, maybe some chips and queso with a margarita will work.  I'm avoiding the hard stuff for Boogie's sake.

Gumbo really isn't that hard to make.  It is time consuming, though, so fair warning.  The trickiest part of gumbo is the roux.  Roux is a mixture of fat and flour that is used to thicken sauces, gravies, and soups.  Roux usually has 3 stages, but gumbo takes it to that 9th stage, better known as Almost Black.  You guys might remember the peanut butter stage from the slow cooker roasted chicken gravy.  There I was standing in the kitchen just whisking and whisking and whisking.  Finally, it reached that color... almost black.

Gumbo, along with most other Cajun/Creole cooking, consists of something called The Holy Trinity.  Yes, it is based on The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost.  New Orleans is a predominantly Catholic city. The Trinity is a mixture of onions, celery, and green bell pepper.  You can tell I'm Cajun because I want to replace carrots with green bell pepper in most things.  It just tastes better.  So in our gumbo, I put some extra Trinity.  Hey, Jake is Catholic, so it works out.

While we are on the subject, 'gumbo' is the African word for Okra.  That is why most gumbos contain it.  Okra has some magical thickening ability, so combined with the roux, you get a rich, delicious, nothing else like it, yummo bowl of awesomeness.  Another secret to gumbo is the file, pronounced fee-lay.  File is made from dried and ground sassafrass leaves.

Speaking of file, the first time my stepdad met my grandparents, my Papa was making his own file, so he had tons of sassafrass drying in his barn.  My stepdad asked my mom if it was pot!  Hahaha!

Now that I've bored you all with my rambling...

Dice up a package of chicken breasts or thighs. (I prefer thighs, but I used what we had)
Put the diced up meat in a Ziploc bag and add:
1/2 teaspoon of each of these seasonings: salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne.
Seal the bag and squish it all around to distribute the spices.
Open the bag, add 1/2 cup of flour and do the squishing again (after you seal the bag)

Heat 3 Tablespoons of canola oil in a dutch oven on medium heat.  Add the chicken and brown on all sides.  While the chicken is cooking, dice up 1 medium onion, 6 stalks of celery and 1 and a half bell peppers.  Also slice up some okra. (I did half a container)

Once the chicken is well browned, remove from the pot and add 1/2 cup canola oil.  Yes, there are brown bits... leave them!  They are flavor.  When the oil is heated, whisk in 1/2 cup flour and just keep whisking.  If you get bored, create whisking songs in your head.  You seriously want to whisk until the roux is almost black.  Once it reaches that point, remove from heat and add in that trinity.  Whisk it all together, and then add 8 cups of chicken stock or water. Continue whisking until it starts to boil.

Add in the chicken and okra, and reduce to a simmer.  Cover.

Slice up some smoked sausage and 2 fat garlic cloves.  Set aside for use in a little while.

Thaw, peel, and devein some shrimps. If you are a slacker, you can buy the shrimps that are already deveined :) (Ahem, that would be me)

Prepare the rice.  Measure out some rice.  I did one cup of rice.  Place in a draining utensil like this one and rinse.  Rinse it until the water is clear.  Then let it drain.  You can even blot with paper towels if you choose.  Place the rice in a pot and cover with twice as much water (2 cups if you prepare it just like mine).  Turn the heat onto medium high and add a little salt.  Let it boil until there are these little bubbles on the surface of the rice that create craters.  Turn off the heat and put a lid on.  It will steam the rest of the way.

Now that the rice is done, you can finish the gumbo.  Go ahead and add in that sausage and garlic.  Let cook about 5 minutes and then adjust the seasonings.  You can add Tabasco to spice it up if you like.  Add the shrimp.  Let cook 5 minutes more and then add 1 tablespoon of file.  Remove from heat immediately.  File will get stringy if you boil it (YUCK!)

Now, it is time to eat!  Put some rice in the bottom of a bowl. You don't need a whole lot, maybe 1/2 cup.  Ladle the gumbo on top and around it, sit, and enjoy!

Have you made gumbo before?  How did it turn out?

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