A good gumbo is a great mealtime staple year-round

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Over the weekend, I ended up taking a quick trip down to Baton Rouge.

What a beautiful city! The LSU campus is just simply amazing!

I toured the old capital building, went to the art center and, of course, had some really good food.

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Cajun cuisine is in a category all by itself. Sometimes people like to mix a little Caribbean with cajun, but by itself, it’s just amazing!

I was somewhat limited to what I could eat, thanks to some recent dental work.

I dove into a bowl of soup and gumbo. You can’t go to Louisiana and not eat gumbo!

I remember making gumbo while living down at the Gulf.

A chef who worked with me at Bayside Grille told me the true secret to a good gumbo is the roux.

I remember it taking forever to make just the roux. I’d take the grease droppings off of the andouille sausage and I’d get it so hot that it would pop. I’d slowly add flour and stir it until it was black as tar.

That was the key to making a great tasting gumbo. I’ll never forget that crazy cajun! We made many a meal together and had lots of fun.

Here is a good recipe for gumbo. Not many people like to eat it during the summer, but it’s good any time.

If you freeze it, by the time fall and winter gets here all the flavors have settled in.

Simple chicken and sausage gumbo

Perhaps the simplest of the gumbos, but a hearty one and a classic combination.

If you can’t find andouille, use a local smoked sausage or kielbasa or whatever smoked sausage you like. This one’s easy to knock off quickly for a great evening’s meal.

1 cup oil

1 cup flour

2 large onions, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

4 – 6 cloves garlic, minced

4 quarts chicken stock

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, or to taste

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large chicken (young hen preferred), cut into pieces

2 pounds andouille or smoked sausage, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 bunch scallions (green onions), tops only, chopped

2/3 cup fresh chopped parsley

Filé powder to taste

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning and brown quickly. Brown the sausage, pour off fat and reserve meats.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil and cook the flour in the oil over medium to high heat (depending on your roux-making skill), stirring constantly, until the roux reaches a dark reddish-brown color, almost the color of coffee or milk chocolate for a Cajun-style roux. If you want to save time, or prefer a more New Orleans-style roux, cook it to a medium, peanut-butter color, over lower heat if you’re nervous about burning it.

Add the vegetables and stir quickly. This cooks the vegetables and also stops the roux from cooking further. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes.

Add the stock, seasonings, chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then cook for about one hour, skimming fat off the top as needed.

Add the chopped scallion tops and parsley, and heat for 5 minutes. Serve over rice in large shallow bowls. Accompany with a good beer and lots of hot, crispy French bread.

Until next time, have a good day today and a better day tomorrow.

Jennifer Whaley is chef and owner of Lemongrass on Highway 80.