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What is Gumbo?
If I had to pick one dish that represents Louisiana Cajun and Creole cooking, it would be gumbo. Just as Louisiana is a melting pot of people and cultures, this pot of gumbo combines many ingredients to make this rich and hearty stew. That’s why gumbo is the official dish of Louisiana.
Gumbo is a thick stew consisting of meat, the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables (celery, onions and bell peppers), stock and seasonings. Every family has their own version of gumbo and people feel strongly about what should (and shouldn’t) be included. And, just like my Cajun Jambalaya, this gumbo feeds a crowd.
- Roux – A mix of oil and flour (more on that later).
- Holy Trinity Vegetables – A combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery.
- Meat – I like to use chicken (whole chicken deboned plus chicken thighs), andouille sausage and shrimp. You can really use whatever you would like as far as the meat goes but I’ve found that the mix of white and dark chicken make a perfect combination for the gumbo.
- Stock – Ideally you would use a whole chicken to make the homemade stock. The stock is the basis for the soup and a quality stock makes a big impact on the overall flavor of the gumbo.
- Seasonings – This is where you can really change up the flavor profile. Don’t be scared to experiment with seasonings. I used basil, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, cajun seasoning and a dash of hot sauce.
Equipment You Need
To make a good gumbo, you will need to make it in a large heavy pot like this enamel coated Dutch oven from Lodge. I also like using a wooden spatula to stir the roux. It helps ensure the roux is not sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot.
How to Make a Roux
A roux is simply a mixture of flour and fat (oil or butter). As you combine the flour and fat, it slowly becomes darker and adds more flavor. Ultimately a roux is used as a thickener. You can make a white roux to thicken sauces for pasta dishes or cook a dark roux for gumbo.
A roux must be cooked low and slow so patience is a virtue. You will be standing over a pot stirring for 45 minutes to an hour. There is one main rule when it comes to a roux: DO NOT STOP STIRRING!
4 Stages of a Roux
There are four different stages of cooking a roux. Starting from a white roux, each sauce continues to thicken, darken in color and flavor.
- White Roux: The first and quickest roux. This usually takes about 5 minutes and is great for things like creamy pasta dishes, loaded potato soup, and casseroles.
- Blonde Roux: As you continue to cook the white roux, the color will begin to change to a blonde color. This roux is good for sauces and gravy.
- Peanut Butter Roux: After 15-20 minutes of cooking, you will get a peanut butter colored roux. The best way to tell is to flip over a jar of peanut butter and sit it next to the roux for comparison.
- Dark/Chocolate Roux: After about 45 minutes of cooking, you will see the roux change to a dark chocolate color. If your color has not changed much after 30-40 minutes, it may be time to turn up the heat a bit.
More Hearty Soups
If you love hearty soups, check out some of these:
- Easy Southern Chicken and Dumplings
- Creamy Loaded Potato Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker White Beans
New Orleans Style Gumbo
- 1 whole Chicken You can use a whole deboned chicken (shredded), rotisserie chicken meat (shredded) or boneless chicken thighs (chopped). You'll want about 700 grams or 5 cups.
- 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
- 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound Andouille sausage (500g)
- 1/2 pound shrimp (300g)
- 1 cup flour
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3-4 celery stalks
- 1 large onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 8 cups chicken stock or water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 pinch cayenne
- 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
- A few dashes of hot sauce (optional)
- Pat the whole chicken dry with a paper towel. Cover the chicken with the room temperature butter and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cajun seasoning all over the chicken.
- Add 1 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and then place the whole chicken backside down. On medium-high heat, brown the chicken for about 8-10 minutes. Then flip the chicken over and brown for another 5-7 minutes.
- Add the 8 cups of chicken stock to the pot. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes.
- Chop all the vegetables (bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic cloves) and set aside.
- In the separate skillet, brown the sausage. Spoon the sausage onto a plate covered with a paper towel to drain off the excess fat.
- In another large pot or Dutch oven, add the 2/3 cup vegetable oil over low heat.
- Stir in flour and continue to stir on low heat for 45 minutes. Use a wooden spoon (preferably with a angled head) to stir and move the roux around the pot. Try to continuously stir the roux and do not leave it alone for too long otherwise it will burn. If after 30 minutes, you do not see any change of color, increate the heat to medium. You are looking for a rich chocolate color.
- Once you have the color you want, add the vegetables (bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic) to the roux and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are translucent.
- Remove the whole chicken from the pot and set it on a chopping board. While it's cooling, ladle the chicken stock into the roux with the vegetables. Continue to stir until all the stock is added.
- Bring it to a boil and while you are waiting, you can start to debone the chicken. Make sure to shred some of the larger pieces to bite size pieces.
- Add the bay leaves, seasonings, hot sauce, cooked sausage and chicken.
- Simmer on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- If you are adding shrimp, increase heat to medium, add the shrimp and cook for 5-7 minutes or until pink.
- Serve over white rice.