Monday, February 4, 2013

Making a Great Gumbo

The base for most New Orleans recipes is a good ROUX.

There is a real trick to making roux and take it from me, I made it wrong for years. It wasn’t until I took a cooking class in New Orleans that I learned how to make roux the right way…or should I say the right color.

You really have to be patient and don’t be tempted to turn up the heat. Remember, if the roux burns even slightly,  you need to throw it out and start over again. It takes at least 20 – 30 minutes of constant stirring to get the color up. I promise you the outcome is so good, it is a small penance to pay.

If you have any reservations, take a class. On second thought, go to New Orleans to take a class.

First you make a roux......

The fat used in roux can be butter, shortening, lard, oil, or bacon drippings.

Many cooks call for a little more fat than flour - 2/3 cup oil to 1/2 cup flour is a common ratio.

Melt the fat in a cast iron skillet over low heat. Slowly sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until brown (this will take at least 20-30 minutes). Don’t ever stop stirring or your roux will burn. Immediately remove from heat.

Roux Colors:

White Roux: White roux is cooked for about 5 minutes before any golden color develops. This is used to thicken chowders and milk based sauces.

Blond Roux: Blond roux is cooked approximately 20 minutes to a light, golden-brown shade. Blond roux is a good roux for thickening stock-based sauces, soups, and stews

Brown Roux: Brown roux is cooked about 35 minutes until it reaches anywhere between peanut butter-brown and hazelnut. This roux is used for gumbos and beef based soups.

Dark Brown Roux: Cook dark brown roux for about 45 minutes until it is the color of melted chocolate. This roux is used as a flavoring agent more than for thickening.

Really GREAT Gumbo…

I hit the jackpot today. I found my old gumbo recipe tucked between the pages of an long forgotten cooking magazine.

I’ve tried a dozen or more off the internet since I lost this recipe but none of them tasted anything like this one. This is my favorite gumbo recipe from the New Orleans Cookbook. It’s one of those cookbooks you find once in a lifetime. You know, the one where every recipe you try is simply astonishing.

What makes this one a great recipe?

If you make the roux correctly and get it the color of dark hazelnuts, this gumbo has so much flavor. It also takes on the soft spot of chicken thighs, smoked sausage and the ham. That taste is really exceptional especially after they cook and connect for awhile.

Make this one and you’ll never look for another gumbo recipe again.

These is the essence that New Orleans cooking is all about!

Bon Appetit!

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1 large chicken (young hen preferred), cut into pieces (I use thighs)
3 tsp. Salt

1 tsp.freshly ground black pepper

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and brown quickly in oil.

2/3 cup oil and ½ cup flour 

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil and cook the flour in the oil over medium to high heat stirring constantly, until the roux reaches almost the color of dark hazelnuts.
1 ¼ pounds smoked sausage, cut into 1/2" pieces
½ pound lean ham, cubed
2 cups onions, chopped 
½ cup bell peppers, chopped
½ cup thinly sliced green shallots, chopped 
2 Tbsp.minced parsley
1 tbs. finely minced garlic
2 quarts cold water
3 bay leaves

1 ¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves 

Add the vegetables and stir quickly. Cook for about 4 minutes.

Add the water, seasonings, chicken, sausage and ham. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Lower heat and cook for about one hour. I have also cooked this on low all day and added the chicken the last hour.

Serve over rice with a cold beer, lots of hot, buttery corn bread muffins and a bottle of hot sauce.