Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gumbo - Daring Cooks' Challenge May 2011

As may be apparent, I have lost my cooking mojo a little in the past few months. Shamefully, I missed both last month's Daring Cook and Daring Baker challenges. But I am back and determined not to let things slip again.

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I have never made gumbo and thought it looked delicious. And bonus, it is seasonally appropriate for the cold Sydney autumn we are experiencing. As a gumbo virgin, and feeling nervous about the roux component, I decided to follow one of the suggested recipes, for a smoked sausage and chicken gumbo, as closely as possible. I couldn't find either of the specified sausages so I opted for just a hot smoked sausage from the local Italian deli and it was great. I couldn't find celery salt for the Creole spice mix, so I substituted celery seed. And I couldn't find file powder so I left that out.

I took the host's advice and chopped everything before I started. I was glad I did as the roux did need constant attention.

I was very nervous about the roux but it worked out perfectly. These pictures shows the development of the color from the start, after 5 minutes, after 10 minutes and after 15 minutes – just as the recipe said.

Once the onion was added to the roux it started to smell amazing. Then as each new ingredient was added, it just got better and better. The finished product was really, truly delicious and more than worth the effort. Tom declared it the tastiest thing he had ever eaten – though I should add that he had run a half-marathon earlier in the day and that I don't cook him two-meat treats very often.

Thank you so much to the host for introducing us to this classic dish in such an accessible way. I will absolutely be making gumbo again and again.

Drew's Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows), or store-bought Creole spice blend
2 pounds (2 kilograms) spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) Basic Chicken Stock (recipe follows), or canned chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces (175 gm) andouille sausage, chopped
2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11 oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Filé powder, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)

1. Prepare homemade chicken stock, if using (recipe below).
2. Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices, if using (recipe below).
3. Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices while you prepare the vegetables.
4. 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.
5. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck fat, or canola 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.
6. 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.
7. Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.8. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.
9. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
10. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
11. 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.
12. Add the chopped andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.
13. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.

Basic Creole Spices

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (33 gm) celery salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) sweet paprika
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (18 gm) coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (6 gm) freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) garlic powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) onion powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (4 gm) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice

Mix together all spices in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid. Store up to six months.


  1. I think we all lose our cooking mojo for a bit a few times a year. Sort of in the midst of one right now, myself. Your gumbo looks delicious, and I love the roux chart from start to finish - nicely done!

  2. I think gumbo is the perfect dish after a long long run so filling and nourishing. Your roxs colour chart is so informative well done. I know how hard it is to photograph gumbo but yours looks so deliciously thick and brown great job.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  3. Oh yum, your gumbo looks deliciously rich. Great job on this challenge!