Mardi Gras may have come and gone, but Cajun food still remains! When people talk to me about Cajun cuisine, two things always come up: boiled seafood and gumbo.
Gumbo is the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ food for Cajuns. Whenever we had extra meat of any kind lying around, gumbo was on the menu. Leftovers from the seafood boil? Gumbo. Neighbor had an extra chicken? Gumbo. Your cousin has an ice chest full of shrimp he can’t fit in his freezer? Throw a shrimp peeling party… and make gumbo.
When it comes to recipes for gumbo, however, I’ve found that no two are alike. Wet roux, dry roux, amount of veggies, meat, etc.–all changes depending on who you talk to.
So, with that little statement out of the way, let me show you how I make gumbo. To be a little healthier, I often use low fat meats, such as turkey sausage and chicken breast. It really doesn’t matter what kind of meat you use–just go with what you have. If you’d rather a shrimp and crab gumbo, by all means go for it!
In a medium-large sized pot over medium-high heat, cook your sausage. (As I’m cooking my meats, I dice up the rest of my ingredients. You can certainly do this ahead of time though if you’re worried you’ll burn the meat.)
Remove sausage and place on cutting board to cool. Put chicken in pan and cook in leftover sausage grease. (Note: If there isn’t enough or any oil in your pan, add enough to ensure chicken doesn’t stick.)
While chicken is cooking, dice up your sausage to be about the same size as the chicken. Once the chicken is not raw on the outside, put the sausage back in the pan. Cook both until chicken is done and starting to brown.
Pour in your roux and vegetables. Cook until your vegetables are soggy or are starting to brown. It should look something like this:
Add water to your pot so that your vegetables are covered to the point where you cannot see them unless you stir the pot. (This is about how much water you will want to end up with, so if it boils down, add more water to about this level.)
Bring gumbo to a boil. Add salt to taste. Boil until flavors are incorporated into all ingredients, at least 30 minutes.
Serve with rice.
Roux is simply browned flour. You can make this in one of two ways: cooking it in oil or cooking it dry. I do the dry method so I can have total control over how much roux (and extra oil) ends up in my gumbo. If you want to know how to make roux, follow the instructions on GumboCooking.com. For an oil based roux, follow these instructions instead.
The thing about gumbo is that it doesn’t really matter how accurate you are with your measurements. I’ve never measured how much vegetables I put in my gumbo. I just always follow the 1-1-2 rule: one onion, one bell pepper, two stalks of celery. They end up being about the same amount once cut up, which is really all that matters.