Sunday, March 27, 2011


Summer has been on my mind these past few weeks. My shorts, flip flops, and favorite Hawaiian Shirt sitting at the ready in my bottom dresser drawer. Were not quite there yet, but we always stay in what seems like seasonal flux during April, May, and June. All the Gardeners, including myself, are becoming anxious to tear into the soil and start there crops, knowing fully well that a few snows and cold spells are still quite possible.

So to bide my time, I play around with different recipes, some complex and some not. Whatever my mood is, that is what I head after. If I chose something that’s going to take quite a bit of time in the kitchen, I make sure I have some music that fits the mood.

Many years ago my friend Camille Fauth, who was born and raised in the Louisiana, taught me how to make her grandmothers Gumbo. This turned into an all day event. Not something I expected, but I had never made Gumbo before so I didn’t know what to expect. After, what seemed a full day of reducing a Roux and then a slow cooking process that never seemed to stop, we finished the Gumbo. We did plan to sell it but between staff and cooks I think we may have sold half of the Gumbo. It was quite delicious.

I have repeated this recipe a dozen times but after the first time I made Gumbo I decided to omit the Okra that is traditional. I just really don’t care for Okra because of the flavor and texture. It also doesn’t help that I had to make deep fried Okra back in my California days for a restaurant menu item. Almost every order had the stuff, so hence, I don’t care for it.

That’s the great thing about playing with a recipe, you can add what you like, making sure it complements and balances flavor. Same reason I added a packet of crab boil to this recipe. I just think the herbs and heat add an overall balance to my personal taste all the while not losing what the dish should be. One last item I swapped out on this was the carrots for Green peppers. I know that traditionally the “trinity” is Onion, Celery, and carrots, but I just didn’t feel that I wanted carrots in my gumbo but I did however love Green peppers and they are still a staple of southern dishes, so I swapped them out.

Overall, I think this is still an ongoing and evolving recipe I have played with over the years. There are still things about it I want to try, but for now it produces a good flavor and a well balanced gumbo that I think could make a menu item in my dream Bistro.



Deep skillet
Flour (amount varies)
½ cup canola or corn oil
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 diced medium white onion (but not minced)
Time and patience

Large Stock Pot
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped Bell Pepper
1/2 cup chopped Celery
10 cups chicken stock
1 Crab boil packet
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1 (3 1/2-4 lb) Roasting Chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 lb andouille, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped Fresh Parsley
File’ Powder

1 Make your Roux.
First, assemble all of your ingredients so they are close to you - within reach. Once you begin, you cannot leave it alone! It must be tended to constantly until it is finished. While these steps don't go into making the gumbo soup-part, we are going to make the all-important base. Make sure you have the time to stick with this until the roux is finished.

Place skillet on medium-low heat, adding approximately 1/2 cup of oil. Let the oil get warm before starting to add ingredients. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the oil. The oil will 'fry' the pepper flakes, don't worry!

Begin adding flour. You are going to add it by sprinkling it into the oil, using your spatula to smash any lumps and keep smoothing the mixture. If it begins to brown the flour too quickly, turn the heat down. Add flour until you can drag your spatula across the bottom of the skillet through the mixture and it slowly fills in the path of your spatula. This is a good consistency to work with, and a great beginning. This takes time, and a lot of flour (though I wouldn't be so silly as to tell you exactly how much - it may vary) be patient and keep adding until you get where you want to be - stirring CONSTANTLY.

THIS is the tricky part. You are stirring a lightly seasoned oil and flour mixture. You wonder when you can stop. You may even get bored. But the end result is worth it - stick with it! Keep stirring, keep cooking - until your roux is very “near” burned. By all means - don't burn it...but you are going to want this to get to a dark rich golden brown, likely darker than you are normally comfortable with. As you NEAR this color, proceed to the next, and last, step.

Your roux is nearly done! Now you are going to add your finely chopped (but not minced) white onion - to taste. I normally use about half of a medium white or yellow onion. These will caramelize quickly - and please be careful as they will pop as their water content mixes with the oil-based mixture. Once the onions are caramelized or the mixture reaches the perfect color - whichever comes first - remove the roux from the burner immediately. Transfer Roux to a stock pot, making sure stock pot is up to temp so not to shock the Roux with a cold pot. You're ready to begin your gumbo!

2 Add the onion, bell pepper & celery and cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until veggies are soft.
3 Add the chicken stock, and the Crab boil packet then blend into the roux mixture.
4 Add the bay leaves & thyme.
5 Season the chicken with salt and cayenne.
6 Add the chicken to the roux-water mixture & simmer for 1 hour.
7 Add the andouille sausage & cook for 1 hour more or until chicken is tender.
8 Skim off any oil that has risen to the surface. Remove the bay leaves.
9 Check your seasoning Balance. Add more salt & cayenne if necessary.
10 Add the green onion & parsley.
11 Serve immediately in soup bowls over steamed rice.
12 File’ powder can be passed around the table so that guests can add it to the gumbo according to individual tastes

I know that this is a pretty long recipe and I would rate the complexity at medium. I think if you give it a try you may be surprised that it truly isn’t hard, but more time consuming and slow moving than anything.


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