Back in my Bay Wolf days, I used to make gumbo a lot. In fact, one of my best friend’s dogs was named Roux after the magical concoction that serves as the base for a really great gumbo. Roux (the flour and oil mixture, not the dog) is a mixture of flour and oil (or butter) that you cook on the stove until it turns color. It thickens soups and adds an amazing depth and richness of flavor that can’t be found any other way. It is easy to make–all it takes is attention and caution. Attention is needed because it can easily scorch on the bottom and burn, which will ruin the roux. You must be willing to stand and whisk for a bit. Caution comes into play because roux is like burning hot lava if it touches your skin. Otherwise it is easy and fun to make a great roux to start a pot of warm, nourishing gumbo.
My friend Debbie asked me to try to make a gumbo that might come close to the one her grandfather used to make. Apparently he made delicious gumbo in his day, but no one in the family remembers how he did it. Given my gumbo affection, I was more than happy to oblige. I used a recipe from Paul Prudhomme, who never fails in this area. Debbie said that the gumbo was quite similar to Grandpa’s–mine was slightly spicier and slightly thicker. Debbie also added file powder to the top of her gumbo, very generously. This was new to me–but it totally worked. The traditional way to serve this is with white rice and lots of shopped scallions.
This is a perfect dish for a crowd. It will improve if it is made a day or two in advance.
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 yellow onions, diced
- 2 green bell peppers, diced
- 6 stalks celery, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 pounds andouille sausage, cut into rounds
- 2 cups cooked chicken meat, shredded
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- Splash of red wine vinegar
- 1 TBLS file powder, to sprinkle on top, optional
- 1/4 cup scallions, sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
- Make the roux: Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
- Continue whisking over medium high heat until the roux begins to turn color.
- First it will be tan, then nutmeg brown, then red-brown. You are aiming for dark red-brown. Keep whisking.
- Do not splash any of this stuff on your skin. It is like molten lava.
- When you have a dark red-brown roux, add the onion, pepper, celery and garlic.
- Cook the vegetables about 10 minutes, until soft.
- Whisk in the hot stock.
- Add the chicken, sausage, bay, vinegar and all spices.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Simmer on low for at least 30 minutes. This gumbo will improve with time.