Do you have a smell that so completely reminds you of a certain person, a special memory, or an exact place in time? As I stood above this bubbling pot of chicken and sausage gumbo, my childhood self was immediately transported to my late grandmother's house in Florida, where flavors of her Louisiana heritage always greeted us upon arrival.
We all know there are as many gumbos as there are cooks, and there's no right or wrong way to make it. (Insert comment war here!) As a Southerner I've enjoyed countless versions, including ones with black-as-night roux, okra as thickener, filé powder as a thickener, or piles and piles of fresh seafood. Being that I'm landlocked in Atlanta, however, my favorite is my nanna's, full of tomatoes, chicken, sausage, and more than a generous dousing of Tabasco.
This is the recipe I grew up with, whether at family trips to the beach to visit relatives or the annual Dozier Christmas Eve dinner. This week I decided to make it alongside my mother, to retrieve all the nitty gritty details. Our version turned out exactly like I remember, but I did unearth one family secret I never knew. Turns out, my grandmother used to swap in a microwave roux. I didn't even know such a thing existed, but hey, they are bayou-born and bred, so I'm inclined to think they know what they're doing.
I've adapted the recipe with a more traditional style of roux, but I'll include the "new-and-improved" version as well. This make enough for a very large crowd, but it also freezes perfectly. And what could be better than a piping hot bowl of Louisiana gumbo saved for a cold, rainy day?
Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Serves a crowd
1 whole fryer chicken (about 4 lbs) 1 1/3 cup cup vegetable oil 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup seeded and diced green bell pepper (about 1 pepper) 2 cups diced celery (1 bunch) 4 cups diced white onions (about 4 onions) 1 head of garlic, peeled and minced (about 8-10 cloves) 3 (28-ounce) canned tomatoes, crushed or diced 12 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced and quartered 4-6 bay leaves 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste Cayenne pepper, to taste
Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add leftover onion and celery trimmings if desired. Salt lightly. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, removing any foam as necessary. Cook approximately 45 minutes to an hour, turning occasionally, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and allow to cool, reserving broth. Shred once cool. Add the leftover bones back to the stock and continue simmering until ready to use.
To make roux, heat the oil in a large soup pot at medium heat until shimmery, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Continue whisking constantly until desired color is reached. I went for a caramel color, which takes a minimum of 25 minutes. You can go until you reach a coffee color, about 40 minutes.)
Keeping heat at medium, add peppers, celery, onions, and garlic to the roux and cook until tender, about 5 - 8 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, tomatoes with their juices, sausage, bay leaves, Tabasco, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Pour in the chicken stock (reserved from earlier), plus additional stock or water if needed to cover. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for at least 4 hours or longer. Adjust seasonings to taste. (If you have time, cool and reheat the next day, when it tastes even better.)
Serve gumbo with additional hot sauce and cooked white rice.
To make microwaved roux: mix oil and flour in a 4-cup glass dish. Microwave uncovered for 6-8 minutes, whisking half way through, until the roux is a caramel color. Be sure to watch closely towards the end of cooking time to make sure it doesn't burn. Add the peppers, celery, and onions and microwave another three minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Continue with recipe.