My Favorite Gumbo
Once upon a time, I worked in an office in downtown Chicago. That seems so strange because for most of my career I was a road warrior and worked from home. At that time, I worked a ton of hours during the week and on the weekends. Much of the time, meals meant running out to grab something in the loop.
One of my fondest memories was running over to The Garland Building on a chilly day in the fall. Going up to Heaven on Seven on the seventh floor and picking up a styrofoam cup (yes, back then we used styrofoam) filled with Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Topped off with some white rice and a mini-baguette. Most days I could wait until I got to the office to dig in but other days, I might have been slurping the last bit as I sat down to my desk.
I never thought I liked gumbo. I’m not a fan of shrimp or crawfish and most varieties I had tried were mostly this variety. When a friend took me to Heaven on Seven the first time, I realized what I had been missing!
Making gumbo is not complicated but does take time and a lot of love and patience. There are a lot of steps and ingredients but when they all come together, the warming, gravy-like soup with a kick is totally worth it.
At the core of most soups and stocks is something called mirepoix. This is a French term for a flavor base made with vegetables that are cooked over low heat to bring out their sweet flavors to provide a base for what you are cooking. The traditional ingredients are two parts onion to one part each carrot and celery. Mirepoix can be different mixes of vegetables in different parts of the world, too.
In Cajun/Creole cooking mirepoix is called the Holy Trinity. It is very similar to traditional mirepoix except it uses bell peppers instead of carrots. Still the same ratios, though: two parts onion to one part each celery and bell peppers. When you make gumbo, the base of the soup with be your Holy Trinity. To add a little bit of kick, you can add some jalapeño.
You may be familiar with the thickening mixture called a roux. It’s equal parts fat and flour (by weight) cooked together and then added to a liquid to thicken it. Roux can be found in many recipes and is a part of three of the five mother sauces in French cuisine.
How long you cook the mixture determines the thickening levels as well as the amount of flavor the roux imparts on the sauce. There are several types of roux: white, blonde, brown, and dark brown. Each type is just cooking the roux for a longer period of time.
For gumbo and other Cajun recipes, you’ll find brown or dark brown roux. The darker roux doesn’t thicken as much as the lighter types. It makes more like a gravy than cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese. The darker roux also imparts that great, nutty, smokey flavor that describes the best gumbos. The challenge to making a dark roux is to cook the mixture for a long time without burning it!
I’m sharing the Heaven on Seven recipe from their cookbook. If you like cajun cooking, I recommend this cookbook as it has a lot of traditional recipes and great tips for how to cook with Cajun flavors.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 ½ teaspoons Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup yellow onion, diced
¾ cup green onions, thinly sliced, white and green part
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cups green bell pepper, diced, seeded
1 ½ cups celery, diced
1 tbsp. jalapeno, seeded, minced
1 tablespoon Roasted Garlic Puree
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon white pepper, ground
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
1 each bay leaf
6 ⅓ cups chicken stock
1 cup Dark Roux
¼ teaspoon file powder white rice
Toss the chicken and 4 teaspoons of the Cajun seasoning together in a medium bowl, set aside
In a large (7 qt) dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the andouille and brown for 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the seasoned chicken and cook for 4 minutes; add the onions and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix in the bell pepper, celery, jalapeno, and garlic puree, and saute for 2 minutes. Add the basil, oregano, black and white pepper, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Cook for 2 minutes more. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.
Whisk in the roux a little at a time and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat and stir in the file powder. Remove the bay leaf.
Serve with cooked white rice.
Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning
Yield: 1/2 cup
3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 ½ tablespoons Spanish paprika
5 teaspoons salt
1 ¼ teaspoons dried thyme
1 ¼ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until mixed. Store in an airtight container.
Roasted Garlic Puree
Yield 1 cup
1 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 300.
Place the garlic in a small ovenproof container and pour in the oil. Use additional oil if needed to completely immerse all the cloves.
3.Cover the container with foil and roast for 1 hour, until garlic is soft and brown.
Strain the garlic and place in a blender along with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Puree to a smooth consistency, adding a small amount of oil, if necessary. Pour into a container and cover the top with a thin layer of oil. Cover and store in the refrigerator.
Reserve the remaining garlic-infused oil in another container and refrigerate
Yield 2 cups
2 cups canola oil
2 ½ cups flour
Heat oil in a 4qt dutch oven over high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes.
Carefully, whisk in the flour a little at a time until all the flour is incorporated.
Reduce the heat to medium and stir continuously, preferably with a flat-edged wooden spoon for 22-25 minutes, until the roux is dark brown.
To prevent the roux from cooking further, pour into a heat-proof bowl and cool for 45 minutes.
Drain off any oil that separates from the roux.
Store the roux in a covered container and refrigerate