Gumbo is as diverse and unique as its cook. Every woman in my family makes the dish differently. My grannie’s gumbo was always dark, rich and smoky; my grandma’s was light and simple. Grannie used okra as a thickener with dark roux and grandma used homemade roux and nothing else. Two very different women, two very different tastes, one spectacular dish… gumbo.
Sunday lunch meant gumbo at grandma’s house. There was always a nutty perfume that met me in the garage on those days (yes, the heavenly smell of her roux permeated through walls). I would rush to the door, eager to eat and eager to take off my itchy white socks that I was forced to wear for church. I am still convinced that little girls’ church clothes are a form of cruel and unusual punishment in the South. Nonetheless, the endurance had its reward, and the incentive came in the form of a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo. Grandma kept the leftover roux in a small, glass-measuring cup on the counter. The roux always looked like chocolate sitting there, daring me to stick my finger in for a lick. Thankfully, it was Sunday and I was never sneaky or inquisitive enough on Sundays. I waited my turn in line, grabbed a bowl, filled it with white rice and ladled the light liquid straight from the pot. God blessed the pot my grandma used to make gumbo in. No matter how many people showed up for lunch, this little silver pot could feed everyone at least two meals. Loaves and fishes came in the form of gumbo right before my very eyes. God bless gumbo!
Makes about 12 servings
2 – 2 ½ cups of homemade roux (recipe below)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
3 large smoked sausage links, cut into ½ inch rounds
2 large onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions, green and white part sliced on a diagonal
1 gallon of water
To make roux:
Add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of vegetable oil in a glass-measuring cup, or any other microwave-safe container. Stir well. Heat the mixture in 1-minute intervals and stir each time. The mixture will start to look like chunky peanut butter (sorry, that was the only comparison I can think of!). After the texture changes, heat in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until the mixture resembles milk chocolate. Immediately take the roux out of the microwave and cool on counter. The mixture will continue to cook on the counter. Cool before using.
Sauté sausage on medium heat until browned. Remove the sausage out of the pan and add the chicken to the pan. Season well and sauté till browned. Once the chicken has browned, take out and add vegetables to the pan. Season vegetables. Sweat vegetables for about 10-15 minutes. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and add the roux. Mix to coat. Put the heat on high and add water. Season well with salt, pepper and cayenne. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3 hours. Season before serving. Serve with rice and garnish with green onions.