Friday, December 1, 2017

Classic Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo (Gumbo Ya-Ya)

A classic light roux-based gumbo, made with a cut up chicken and andouille sausage, served over hot steamed rice.
A classic light roux-based gumbo, made with a cut up chicken and andouille sausage, served over hot steamed rice.

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

I've been making and sharing Miss Lucy's chicken gumbo with y'all for years, but admit, her classic Cajun-style method is not exactly the way that I usually make my gumbo.

Miss Lucy's recipe makes a roux, then adds water to the roux and then adds the chicken, sausage and trinity (onion, bell pepper and celery) to the pot, a classic Cajun one pot prep.

I prepare my gumbo in a way that is more traditional where I live - brown the meats, prepare the roux, cook the trinity in the roux, then add the water or stock and the rest.

However you make it, we eat a lot of it and it's mighty good!

In fact, though steaming pots of soups and hearty stews tend to be relegated to these cooler months for most folks around the country, gumbo is one food that really has no season here. Winter, spring, summer and fall, it’s on the menu and when eating out, we often start our meal with a cup or bowl of it, whether it's the heat of summer or one of our rare winter freezes.

Referred to as Gumbo Ya-Ya down here, this chicken and sausage gumbo likely represents the first in gumbos from its earliest days. Though we do tend to favor the seafood based gumbos the most here, thanks to easy access to the bounty from our Gulf waters, still, a gumbo loaded with shrimp, oysters and fresh crab, is not inexpensive. Even here, it has all but become a special occasion or event meal, even for us coastal residents.

Most consumers of seafood don't fish, throw cast nets, put out crab traps or tong for oysters, at least not like our ancestors did, so we get our catch fresh off the boats at the dock or at the seafood market - and paying for that labor ain't cheap. Because of that, much more regularly, you’ll find a chicken gumbo simmering in kitchens around here, and not only in the winter.

For chicken gumbo, season the meat well before browning, and always use a good quality smoked sausage. Down here along the coast, we lean more to the robust flavor of an Andouille or Cajun style sausage, which adds a nice spicy kick and intense flavor to any dish where you might otherwise use a kielbasa or other milder form of smoked sausage. Either of those will work too though if you prefer less heat.

Although we rarely do wait, gumbo is a dish that only improves with advance preparation. The flavors really benefit from settling down and mingling together, and it thickens up better too. While it’s delicious right out of the pot on day one, it’s always even better the next day, so make it ahead of time whenever possible. Prepare, let cool and skim any accumulated oil off the top before storing. Skim off any refrigerated fat before reheating.

You will notice there is no okra in this gumbo.

No, that's not an error.

Yes, that is intentional.

While earlier renditions of gumbo had a base consisting of okra and tomatoes, and I use both in my seafood gumbos, I have never made chicken gumbo with either. My gumbo, like most others, is an iteration of the evolution of my many pots of gumbo. Some will argue that simply using the term "gumbo" to describe a pot of stew, means okra is a requirement in said stew in order it be called gumbo. Nothing could be further from the truth!

A gumbo is a stew using a variety of seafood, or sometimes meats or poultry, and some kind of thickener, whether that be filé, from the crushed leaves of sassafras, a roux, or the addition of okra, or even a combination of, or all of them. That's my story and I'm stickin' too it!

Here's how to make my Classic Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo and, as always, just swipe or scroll down the page a bit to find the full recipe text, with measurements, and a printable recipe you can carry to your kitchen.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning. Heat 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil in a large gumbo pot or Dutch oven, over medium high heat and brown the chicken in batches on both sides, adding additional oil as needed.  Remove and set aside. 

Add the sausage to the drippings and cook until lightly browned; remove and drain over paper towels. Set aside. We don't want the excess grease from the meats in our gumbo, so pour out and discard drippings, wipe out pot and add fresh clean oil for the roux to the pot.

Blend in the flour a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture at minimum resembles the color of peanut butter, about 30 to 45 minutes. You may also take the roux darker if you like, purchase a commercial roux {affil link} already done, prepare the roux in the oven or yes, even the microwave, which I do sometimes myself!

Add the onion, bell pepper and celery to the roux and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Stir in 2 cups of the broth and/or water, a little at a time, until mixture is well blended and forms a gravy, gradually bringing to a boil. Continue adding the remaining broth or water to the pot until fully incorporated. Add the chicken, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, uncovered, using a spoon to periodically skim off any fat and/or foam that accumulates on top.

Remove chicken, skin and bones and set aside to cool. Add the sausage to the pot and simmer another 30 minutes. Add the green onion and cook another 10 minutes. Shred or chop the chicken and return to the pot, discarding the skin and bones and let simmer until chicken is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Let gumbo rest off the heat for 10 minutes, skimming off any excess oil from the top. Stir, remove and discard bay leaves, and serve gumbo over hot steamed rice with hot, buttered French bread on the side and a Barq's root beer. Very good with potato salad on the side, or scooped right into the gumbo. Offer hot sauce and gumbo filé at the table.

You can always take your roux darker in the skillet but my patience for that wanes here in my older age! I did recently make the one below on the stovetop in my larger Copper Chef casserole pan {affil link} - get this... in less than 30 minutes and actually did the entire gumbo in that pan. I consider this to be a medium dark roux, which is about as far as I'm ever gonna take it, though you can actually take even darker if you like. A darker roux like this does have a very robust, albeit strong flavor, which is a little much for me, but that my husband loves.

If you don't care much for a darker roux either, or your roux didn't give you quite enough color for your gumbo, here's a little secret of many southern cooks - add a little splash of Kitchen Bouquet {affil link} to your gumbo. Ssssh.... don't tell anybody but it works like a charm.

Southern Style Hissy Fit Warning: While we're on the subject of roux... 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 personally know anybody who does that in a home kitchen. My father-in-law comes from a long line of New Iberia Cajuns and his rouxs are always fairly light, never black, and delicious I might add.

For one, it weakens the thickening power of your roux substantially and makes for a very thin, soupy gumbo. For another, it's very robust and very strong flavored. For another, unless you are very experienced at it, it can take a very long time and is easy to burn - if you try to rush it with high heat.

Bottom line: Take it to the level you like. Most folks I know don't want that strong flavor for a simple chicken or seafood gumbo and take the roux anywhere from peanut butter colored to a slightly darker brown. For me, it's just a matter of time/patience. While we are here let me also 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. {tucking away the soapbox}

For more of my favorite gumbo recipes, visit my page on Pinterest!

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