It’s hard to go to New Orleans and not find yourself eating at least one bowl of rich and comforting gumbo. Everybody has his or her own version of the recipe, which, no doubt, they’ll swear to you is the city’s best.
I’ve been thinking a lot about NOLA recently as yet another Mardi Gras season has come and gone without me making the trip to see the spectacle. I’ve promised myself that I will go at least once to witness the parades and enjoy the celebration, instead of living vicariously through the social media posts of friends and acquaintances.
Fortunately, the new edition of Tom Fitzmorris’ encyclopedic New Orleans Food is coming out next week. While there is truly nothing like dining in the French Quarter or eating at Commander’s Palace, his book offers a full menu of recipes that you’ll find being served all over town.
So instead of just listening to my funky Wild Tchoupitoulas album on repeat and punishing myself for not getting to Mardi Gras, I can at least enjoy a taste of the Crescent City. And what better recipe to make than gumbo?
Fitzmorris’ version of the classic dish is fairly straight forward and only requires one ingredient, filé powder, that you may need to buy online. “This is my favorite style of gumbo. I’ve enjoyed it literally all my life, as it is basically my mother’s recipe, a regular part of her weekly cooking regimen,” he writes in the note for the recipe. “This is one of those soups that gets better after it sits in the refrigerator for a day. This recipe also reduces the amount of time needed on the stove by about a third.”
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
1 6-lb. Stewing chicken
.5 cup Vegetable oil
.5 cup Flour
1 large Onion, chopped
1 Red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
3 sprigs Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
12 cups Chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
.5 tsp. Tabasco
2 Bay leaves
.5 tsp. Dried thyme
1 lb. Andouille* or other smoked sausage
2 Green onions, chopped
2–3 cups Long-grain rice, cooked
Cut the chicken into 12 pieces. Sear them in 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven over fairly high heat. Keep turning the chicken pieces until they brown on the outside; they should not cook through.
Remove the chicken and reserve. Add the flour and remaining oil to the pot and make as dark a roux as you can. The key to making a roux is to avoid burning it. This is accomplished by constant stirring and watching the heat.
When the roux is medium-dark, reduce the heat and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and parsley, and sauté until the onions are translucent and have begun to brown.
Return the chicken to the pot, along with the chicken stock or water, salt, pepper, Tabasco, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour.
Slice the andouille into 1-inch-thick disks. Wrap them in paper towels and microwave them on medium power for about 3 minutes to remove excess fat. Add the sausage to the gumbo pot.
Cook the gumbo, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender, for 1–2 hours. If you plan to serve the gumbo the next day, cook it for just 30 minutes, let it cool to warm, cover, and refrigerate. You might want to strip the chicken meat (see next step) while waiting for the gumbo to cool.
When ready to serve, remove the chicken and strip the meat off if you haven’t done so already. Slice the chicken into bite-size pieces and return to the pot. (You can also just leave the pieces as is if you’re among family.) If you made the gumbo in advance, bring it up to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the green onions and simmer for another 3–4 minutes.
Serve over rice with a pinch or two of filé. at the table. Serves six to ten.
*Andouille. A chunky, smoky, thick-skinned smoked pork sausage, both French and German in character. Andouille is used in gumbo, jambalaya, and quite a few other New Orleans dishes as both a meat and a flavoring. You can substitute a generic smoked pork or beef sausage if you can’t get the real thing.
**Filé. A distinctive ingredient in gumbo, especially chicken gumbo, fil. is powdered sassafras leaves. It is in the spice rack of any New Orleans food store but may be harder to find elsewhere
From Tom Fitzmorris’s New Orleans Food (Revised & Refreshed), published by Abrams.