There are always a few things I can count on this time of year: shorter days, cooler temperatures, fewer bugs and either the Longhorns or the Sooners reigning over the Cotton Bowl till next year (congrats UT!). Plus a big pot of flavorful gumbo thickened with the last of the okra from the garden.
It is too dang hot to stand over a stove stirring a roux in the middle of summer when okra is at its peak, but in the fall, when the bell pepper plants are loaded and the green onions are big enough to harvest, I feel compelled to make gumbo just before okra gives up the ghost; a little for immediate consumption, a little for sharing and a little for the freezer to enjoy on cold winter nights in front of a cozy fire. A small disclaimer here – I am Texan and did not grow up making gumbo in a Louisiana kitchen. If you grew up in the Gumbo State I bet you make amazing gumbo and I salute you, but for the rest of the readers out there, including my two daughters, here is a pretty good version that I have been making, sharing and enjoying for over 25 years.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Gumbo contains onions, bell pepper and celery – the Cajun trinity.
1 pound andouille or spicy smoked sausage, cut in half lengthwise then cut into ¼” slices
4-6 bone-in chicken breasts, skinned
½ cup oil
½ cup flour
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Creole seasoning
2 bay leaves
1-2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1-2 tsp Tabasco
1½ quarts water or chicken stock, more if needed
1-2 cups okra, sliced
4-6 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
Cook sausage in a large Dutch oven until nicely browned (I usually cook half the sausage in a separate pan for more even browning). Remove to a paper towel-lined dish to drain. Add chicken to pan and brown on both sides in sausage drippings; remove and set aside. Add enough oil to Dutch oven to measure ½ cup; when heated through stir in ½ cup flour. Now get comfortable, roll up your sleeves and cook the roux, stirring constantly, for 20-30 minutes, until medium to dark brown. You may notice that my gumbo is not as dark as what you might be served in New Orleans – I may be a Texan but I am a chicken when comes to cooking a truly deep, dark roux. A darker roux gives a rich, smoky flavor but if you cook it too long or too fast or look way even for a second it can go from perfection to scorched and you will have to start over so pay attention!
Once your roux is toasty brown it’s time to add the trinity, but the roux is so hot I like to move the pan off the heat for a couple of minutes (this also prevents the roux from burning) then stir in the onions, peppers and celery and return to the burner. Cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and seasonings, cooking and stirring another 3-5 minutes.
Gradually stir in 1½ quarts of water/chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return chicken breasts to pot, lower heat and simmer 30-45 minutes. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Return sausage to pot along with okra and green onions and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile bone chicken breasts and shred. Return shredded chicken to pot and cook another 20-30 minutes until everything is hot and fragrant. Remove bay leaves and season, if desired, with salt and hot sauce. Serve with rice and fresh green onions.
A couple of years ago I was fortunate to receive some bulbs for green multiplier onions from the publisher of Texas Gardener magazine. He received them from a reader in Houston, who explained that they migrated to Texas with Cajuns from south Louisiana who had been growing them for over 100 years. They grew them for use in their gumbo and refer to them simply as gumbo onions. I don’t know if this reader has a stockpile to share via this blog but if he does I will provide his name and address in a future post. These onions are dependable and tasty, but unfortunately I have given away most of my bulbs and am trying to build up my reserves. In the meantime try asking long-time gardeners in your area if they have any multipliers to share or order some white multiplier onions from Southern Exposure Seed Catalog (www.southernexposure.com).
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