In the FIFTY story for Louisiana, “Gumbo and the Petticoat Insurrection,” Ambroisine Melange sets out from Paris to seek adventure and opportunity in Louisiana — a place where, so she was told, anything was possible. When Ambroisine arrives, however, she finds that Louisiana is not quite the land of abundance she had expected.
Luckily, a minor rebellion leads Ambroisine to Madame Langlois, the Governor's cook. Madame Langlois teaches Ambroisine to take a bit of inspiration from each of the local cultures to make a new kind of stew to sustain her in her new country — gumbo!
Gumbo is one of those foods that makes for a delicious history lesson. As Ambroisine learns in the story, each new culture that came to Louisiana added its own new ingredients based on what they knew from their old homes and what was available in their new home. The result is a dish that's both international and very local. It has cousins all over the world, but only in Louisiana will you find a real bowl of gumbo.
The version of gumbo I've cooked up for this week's recipe varies from that traditional Louisiana version in two ways:
First, gumbo typically includes some form of seafood. I find that chicken and sausage are more than enough protein for my family, so I typically leave the seafood out. If you want to add it back in, I would substitute shrimp for some (or all) of the chicken.
Second, I haven't yet convinced my kids of the joys of spicy food, so I use a milder sausage in lieu of fiery andouille. If you do the same, be sure to serve this gumbo with plenty of hot sauce on the side so that those who like more heat can spice up their individual bowls.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4-5 thighs)
4-5 cups reserved chicken stock
1 pound sausages
about ¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 large, diced garlic clove
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
12 ounces fresh or frozen okra, sliced
1 tablespoon gumbo filé (a spice mixture)
salt and pepper
hot sauce (for serving)
rice (for serving)
Add the chicken thighs to a large stock pot, and cover with water. Boil the chicken thighs until they're done, then shred them, reserving 4-5 cups of the chicken stock.
Slice the sausages into chunks about 2-inches wide, and brown them in a dutch oven or other large pan with high sides.
You don't need to cook them through at this point, just get a nice color on their exterior, then remove them from the pan.
For the next step, you'll need equal amounts fat and flour. If your sausage was on the fattier side, you'll already have some fat in the pan, so you can reduce the amount of butter a bit. Add enough butter to the pan to equal about ¼ cup of fat, then add ¼ cup flour.
Whisk the butter and flour together well over medium-low heat, and keep whisking for 10-15 minutes to make a roux that's the color of dark caramel.
Once the roux is ready, add the diced carrots, onions, celery, and garlic, along with the thyme, basil, and bay leaf. Stir the vegetables and seasonings together with the roux, then sauté them for about 10 minutes or until they're softened.
Next add the diced tomatoes and juice, the okra, and the partially cooked sausage to the pan. Add 3 cups of chicken stock to start, and add more as necessary to keep the mixture stew-like.
Simmer for 20-25 minutes, then add the shredded chicken. Turn off the heat, then stir in the gumbo filé and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over warm rice, with plenty of hot sauce on hand for those who like a bit of heat.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.