Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

There's one glorious occasion celebrated around the city of New Orleans when it starts to get cold. No, it's not the Saints headed to the playoffs (really, we couldn't celebrate that until the past 5 years). Rather, it's that it's finally time to make a delicious, hearty gumbo to fight the moderate winter. As a good Louisiana boy, one of my first cooking adventures ever was a gumbo. I decided to make my mom a gumbo for her birthday when I was around 10, so I grabbed a cookbook and found a recipe. Then I did very little work and watched my mom make it like any good child would. When I moved to Los Angeles, I started to miss the South, so I have made sure to cook a gumbo at least once a year since.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from one of my mom's cookbooks by Mrs. Dot Scanio
Servings: 8-10
Time: Approximately 4 hours

The hole patterns in rice always amuse me.
1/3 cup cooking oil
6 tbsp flour
2 medium onions, diced
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb ham, cubed
3 chicken breasts
8 cups water
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 chicken bouillon cubes
Gumbo file to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste
Extra long grain rice

Your roux should be at least this color but preferably darker. 
Among the best smells to ever grace my kitchen

  1. Make your roux. Mix the flour and oil over medium heat stirring frequently until it starts to smell nutty and becomes caramel colored. Let it get as dark as you possible, because your gumbo will take on that color in the end. 
  2. Cook the onions and sausage in the roux until the onions become soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Transfer to a large pot and add the chicken, ham and water.
  4. Bring the water to a boil then add the bouillon cubes.
  5. Lower the temperature to a simmer and let cook until the chicken breaks apart (about 3 hours). Make sure to stir every 15 minutes or so to prevent burning.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. (The andouille should add most of the salt and pepper that you need.)
  7. Serve over extra long grain rice with tabasco (and a dash of file if desired).
You know it's ready when the chicken does this and you can no longer take the smell and must eat it.

I had one wish for the Saints game against the Giants this Monday, and that was to feast on a gumbo while the Saints feasted on the Giants defense. Thanks to Drew Brees and a lazy Sunday afternoon, that wish was fulfilled. This chicken and sausage gumbo is about as basic of a gumbo as you can make. Even with its unassuming appearance (and relatively low cost), it still packs an insane amount of flavor. Despite the near ubiquitous nature of the now shredded chicken, it doesn't take over the dish (but it might absorb most of the liquid once you put this in the fridge). Instead, it works in perfect harmony with the spicy andouille and ham to transport your taste buds to the French Quarter. As the game drew to its 49-24 close, I sat on my chair, full and knowing what it felt like to be utterly satisfied.

Later this winter, I'm going to venture out and try to make an okra and seafood gumbo. If it comes out half as good as my grandmother's amazingness (which should've been bottled and sold as dipping sauce for everything), then I'll be a happy man.

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