I can't even begin to tell you how utterly unenthusiastic I was about this month's challenge. Really. After reading the challenge I immediately sighed and decided that I was going to make it to bring to potluck game night at the church so that I might not be stuck with so much in the way of leftovers. I wasn't going to shrug off the challenge just because I didn't think I'd like the food, but I didn't have to be happy about it either. Lovely attitude, don't you agree?
Now, so far I had only seen the subject line, not the recipe or any of the example photos, and I had already done a mental shrug and eye roll over this challenge. However, after reading some of the ingredient options and seeing the absolutely stunning pictures in the example, I was feeling a little more charitably inclined toward this Gumbo. I can't even understand where my prejudice towards Gumbo came from since I've never actually tasted it but it was slowly starting to melt away. Not enough, however, for me to reassign it on the menu away from the game night. It might have seemed a little more appealing, but I still wasn't inclined to want a ton of leftovers.
Considering those things, I find it quite ironic that I fell a little more in love with this dish nearly every time I tasted it throughout the cooking process. And I couldn't have it all to myself since I had already told people what I was bringing to the potluck. Drat! It serves me right after forming opinions based on absolutely nothing. Really, nothing. I have no idea why in my mind Gumbo = Gross. Perhaps it was simply the name? Or the fact that it usually (maybe always?) has Okra, which I dislike intensely. I have no clue.
While I was making this I made quite a few changes, omissions, and alterations, both accidentally and intentionally. I knew that I didn't want to make it too spicy, so I left out the spicy sausage called for (not realizing that smoked Andouille Sausage is also spicy!) and I didn't want to have a lot of extra seasoning bottles gathering dust in the cabinet never to be used again so I assembled my own Creole spices but it a much smaller quantity than provided in the given recipe, this also lead me to omit the File Powder.
I dislike okra (I won't even describe what it reminds me of) but I had planned on putting it in anyway because Hey, Babe likes it. The Okra was eventually omitted when we couldn't find any after checking in three stores. Another minor change I made was to add half chicken thighs and half boneless breasts instead a a whole cut up chicken. After the first 45 minute simmer I took all the chicken out and de-boned and skinned it so that I could shred the meat and add it back to the pot, thus making it easier to serve at a potluck dinner.
The last two changes came about after a little...mishap, shall we say, in the kitchen. According to the recipe you are supposed to cook the roux for 15 minutes, constantly whisking. Due to either distractions from the kids or the fact that I chose to use some of the leftover bacon oil from breakfast, I am pretty sure that I burned my roux. The house was slowly filling with smoke, and it was not smelling tasty at all, but the recipe said I was supposed to keep cooking. I wanted to stop, but according to recipe I wasn't supposed to!
(grossly separating roux)
I should have gone with my gut. I added the onions and ended up with a weird pot of separated oil and charred...stuff. It didn't look right and it tasted even worse. But I couldn't help but wonder if this was actually the result we were looking for? Who knows, although if any of you think that I was actually on the right track, let me know. Maybe I'll sacrifice a small experimental pot of it next time. At any rate, after a little deliberation I decided to start over and cook it less along with no bacon fat this time and with a movie playing for Little Man. The only problem with starting over was that I only had one onion left. Oh well!
(the top spoon is the charred version, in case you couldn't tell)
It was the most exquisite form of torture. Riding in a car for half an hour with the pot of bubbling hot Gumbo sitting in my lap was almost more than I could handle as we went on our merry way to Game Night. If it hadn't been so very hot I'd have been even more tempted by the intoxicating fragrance to start drinking it up right there in the car. The general consensus seemed to be that it was delicious, with a caveat from a few who thought that it was a tad too spicy for them. Next time, and oh, there will definitely be a next time, I'm not too proud to admit when I was wrong! Next time I will ease back on the cayenne, maybe add a little sweet sausage along with the spicy, and serve it with Tabasco Sauce at the table for anyone who wants to kick up the heat.
Because I made many alterations to the given recipe, I will post my version below. To use the recipe without my adaptations, or to check out the recipes for Seafood Gumbo click here.
Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo
adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or less if you don't like spicy)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 large onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 quarts Chicken Stock
2 bay leaves
14 ounces andouille sausage, chopped
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4-6 cups cooked Rice (I used brown, but I might try mashed potatoes next time, not traditional maybe but I think it would be delicious!)
Combine the seasonings together and sprinkle them over the chicken pieces while you prepare the vegetables.
Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.
In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes (the second time I only cooked if for about 10).
Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes (again, the second time I did this for around 7-8).
Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often. (I got a lot of oil off of this, more than 1 cup. Can anyone explain why we add it just to take it out? Can't we just toast the flour without the oil?)
Remove all the pieces of chicken to a plate. Add the chopped andouille and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Start to simmer for another 45 minutes, while you are removing the skin and bones from the chicken pieces. Shred the meat and return it along with any accumulated juices back to the pot. Continue to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice