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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.
- Tomatoes – This ingredient is controversial when it comes to gumbo. I’ve made it with and without tomatoes and I prefer it with tomatoes. If you feel they don’t belong in gumbo, simply leave them out. Technically with the tomatoes, it makes this dish “creole” and not “cajun.” Either way you prefer it, it’s still delicious.
- 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
Authentic New Orleans Style Gumbo
- 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.
- 1 pound Andouille sausage (500g)
- 1/2 pound shrimp (300g)
- 1/2 cup flour (65g)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (115ml)
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3-4 celery stalks
- 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 8 cups chicken stock or water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cajun seasoning
- A few dashes of hot sauce (optional)
- 1-2 tsp kitchen bouquet (optional)
- If you are making the stock, make homemade chicken stock and debone chicken. Set the meat aside.
- Chop all the vegetables (bell pepper, onion, celery, tomatoes garlic cloves) and set aside.
- If you are using chicken thighs, cook the chicken in a separate skillet on medium high heat until cooked and set it aside. Shred the meat once it has cooled.
- In the same skillet, cook the sausage and set aside (include fat drippings)
- In a large cast iron pot or Dutch oven, add oil over low heat.
- Stir in flour and continue to stir on low heat for 45 minutes. Do not stop stirring. If after 30 minutes you do not see any change in color, increase heat to medium. It should be darker than a peanut butter but be careful not to burn it.
- Add the bell pepper, onion and celery to the roux and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are translucent.
- Add the garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes. You can always leave out the tomatoes and tomato paste if desired.
- While stirring, slowly add the stock to the pot.
- Add the bay leaf, seasonings, hot sauce, kitchen bouquet (if desired) and cooked meat (shredded chicken and sausage) back to the pot.
- Simmer on low for 2 hours.
- Increase heat to medium, add the shrimp and cook for 5-7 minutes or until pink.
- Serve over white rice.