Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cajun Style Chicken Gumbo

Miss Lucy's Cajun Style Chicken Gumbo - a delicious and easy gumbo made with a roux, the Trinity of vegetables and using a whole chicken and andouille sausage.
Chicken Gumbo, made in the one pot tradition of Cajun style. A delicious and easy gumbo made with a roux base, the trinity of vegetables and using a whole chicken and full flavor andouille sausage.

Miss Lucy's Cajun Style Chicken Gumbo

I've talked before about being a big fan of Miss Lucy H. Zaunbrecher's old show, Classic Cajun Culture and Cooking and her Louisiana recipes. It used to come on local PBS station, and sometimes  I've caught her on the RFD-TV station too though I haven't seen it on anywhere in a very long time.

Her recipe is a little different method from how I usually do a classic roux gumbo (roux, veggies, liquid), but I tried to stay pretty true to her method - Cajun one-pot cooking, simplified!

I usually use Savoie brand andouille sausage which is a highly seasoned, spicy smoked Cajun sausage from Louisiana, or Conecuh from Alabama, but you can substitute regular smoked sausage if you don't want it too spicy, because it does give it a hefty bite. Andouille can often be a little much for some folks, so unless you're already seasoned in Cajun fire, stick with a regular smoked sausage and just adjust seasonings to taste.

Cajun and Creole cooking is not about fiery burn your mouth off spice or heavy red pepper! It is about the layering of flavors and seasonings that enhance the dish, with just a bit of a bite at the back of your tongue to awaken your senses and maybe clear your sinuses a tad.

I usually let my chicken gumbo go for anywhere to 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat essentially falls off of the bone, and just fish out the skin and bones at the end. Be mindful of that with bone-in chicken though are make sure everybody checks for any bones you may have missed!  I usually cook my chicken gumbo roux to a medium dark - like the color of a rich bar of milk chocolate - but you could also take this one darker. My dark oven roux would work well here too.

Southern Style Hissy Fit Warning: I do want to say one thing about roux, that I've repeated on all of my gumbo posts. Roux can be brought anywhere from very blonde, to light tan for gravies, to peanut butter colored, or more ruddy, like a copper penny, to chocolaty brown, to deep brown, to nearly black - or anywhere in between for gumbo. Bottom line is that it's really a personal preference and don't let anybody tell you that a gumbo roux has to be nearly black. That's just simply not true. While some chefs may do that, I don't know anybody who does that in a home kitchen.

For one, it weakens the thickening power of your roux substantially and makes for a very thin gumbo. For another, it's very robust and very strong flavored. For another, it can take a very long time and is easy to burn if you try to rush it with high heat. If you like that kind of bold (or if you're cooking something like wild duck), by all means, take it super dark. Most folks I know don't want that flavor for a simple chicken or seafood gumbo and take the roux from peanut butter colored to a slightly darker brown. Even though this is a chicken gumbo, while we are here, let me add, if you're gonna put crab in your seafood gumbo, and you want to call it authentic to the Gulf Coast region, it's blue crab. Not snow crab.

As always with any gumbo, as delicious as it is day one, it's even better the next day, plus it's easy to skim off any fat you want to get rid of and it thickens up too, so make it ahead whenever you can.

If you find your gumbo to be lighter and thinner than you like, two of your best kitchen friends are Kitchen Bouquet and Wondra flour. Hey it happens to the best of us!

Kitchen Bouquet, is a browning and seasoning sauce and a pantry staple in this part of the Deep South where I'm from. Usually found in the condiments aisle, or near the dried herbs and seasonings, it is made with herbs, spices and pureed vegetables. When used in stews, sauces and gravies, it adds depth of flavor and richer color to a gumbo that ended up a bit pale.

Wondra is a form of instant flour that dissolves more smoothly and quickly than regularly flour and can thicken up a too watery gumbo. You can sprinkle it right in the simmering gumbo though I prefer to strain out the solids from the gumbo, use a cup of that with a few tablespoons of Wondra and then stir that into the liquid, boil a minute and then readd the solids.

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Recipe: Cajun Style Chicken Gumbo

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Cook time: 2 hours | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (3 to 4 pound) whole hen or fryer, cut into serving pieces and skin removed, if desired
  • 12 cups water, heated
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, sliced in 1/4" rounds
  • 1/4 cup green onion, chopped, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning, or to taste

Heat oil to medium high in a tall, heavy bottomed stockpot and slowly sprinkle in flour, a little at a time until fully incorporated. Cook, stirring constantly until roux is medium to dark in color. Begin adding the warmed water to the roux about a cup at a time, until well incorporated and all water is used. Add the chicken, sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce to a low simmer and cook until meat is tender, about 1-1/2 hours. occasionally skimming off any foam and/or excess oil. Remove bones and skin, add green onion and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Taste, add Cajun seasoning and adjust other seasonings as needed; serve over hot rice.

Cook's Notes: Be mindful of bones! Gumbo is a dish that only improves with advance preparation, so make it ahead of time if possible. The flavors really need time to settle and mellow. It's always thicker and better tasting the next day. Prepare, let cool and skim any accumulated oil off the top before storing. The darker the roux, the less thickening it is. Adjust roux to liquid ratios to your own taste.

Andouille sausage is a highly seasoned, smoked sausage that is blended with Cajun spices, adding a spicy kick and great flavor to these dishes. If you substitute kielbasa or other smoked sausages in recipes where it calls for Andouille, it will affect the outcome of your dish and you’ll need to make adjustments in the seasonings you use.

Tip: If you find your gumbo to be lighter and thinner than you like, two of your best kitchen friends are Kitchen Bouquet and Wondra flour.


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