Cooking 101: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Gumbo, a dish that originated in Louisiana and is now loved throughout the South, is a staple of Cajun cuisine. It’s famous for its rich flavor, but there are many different kinds of gumbo! This recipe uses shrimp as its protein base, so it will be filling without being too heavy.
What is Gumbo
Gumbo is a stew made with a roux, meat, seafood and vegetables. Gumbo is a staple dish in New Orleans, Louisiana. It originated in Louisiana and is made with a roux (a mixture of flour and oil/fat), meat such as chicken or sausage, seafood such as shrimp or crabmeat, and vegetables such as okra or tomatoes.
Louisiana’s love language is gumbo. This straightforward southern stew is a symbol of the blending of cultures, nuanced traditions, natural ingredients, and, most importantly, community. Gumbo is a weekly tradition in many South Louisianan families. I ate enough of gumbo while I was a kid in New Orleans, but my go-to recipe is the traditional Cajun version.
Locals in the Louisiana river parishes where this Cajun meal has its roots have given my recipe the coveted thumbs-up throughout the years.
The ingredients to this gumbo recipe are pretty straightforward. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Chicken broth
- White rice (1 cup)
- Chicken breasts or thighs (about 4)
- Onion (1 medium) chopped into small chunks, green onion (1/2 stalk), bell pepper (1 large), garlic cloves (3-4), celery stalks (2), seasoning blend for meats
- Sausage link cut in half lengthwise, okra pods sliced in half vertically.
- Prepare the roux, by melting butter and adding flour in a large stock pot. Whisk until smooth.
- Add flour and milk to the roux and stir constantly until it begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While you’re waiting for the gumbo base to boil, prepare your vegetables: Cut 2 onions into medium dice (the size of your thumb nail) and mince 6 cloves of garlic. Slice 1/2 pound okra into 1/8-inch rounds (you can use fresh or frozen). Rinse 1 bell pepper (any color) under cold water, then slice into strips about 1 inch wide by 4 inches long; dice any leftover pieces into small squares or rectangles that are about as big as a dime piece (about half an inch across). Peel 2 stalks celery—save one for garnish—and chop both stalks lengthwise into four sections each; then cut each section crosswise into 2 pieces so you have 8 total wedges per stalk (16 total pieces). Peel and cube 6 ounces tomatoes; discard stems if they’re still attached at their bottom ends but do not remove their tops entirely unless they are very large because they will make your finished dish look prettier!
- Cajun spice – You may still use it even if it has been salted! Just taste the dish at the very end and cut back on the salt. Use 1 1/2 teaspoons each of paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoons of powdered black pepper, 3/4 teaspoons of onion powder, 3/4 teaspoons of dried oregano, and 3/4 teaspoons of dried thyme to build your own Cajun spice for this dish.
Gumbo is a simple dish that’s easy to make, but if you want to spice it up and make it your own, here are some tips:
- Add more vegetables. Any vegetable will work for gumbo—just add them in when the rice has cooked down.
- Add more meat. You can use ham hocks instead of smoked sausage and chicken or turkey breast instead of beef chuck roast (the latter two will require longer cooking times).
- Spice it up! Increase the amounts of cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes to your taste as you go along.
- More liquid! If there isn’t enough liquid in your gumbo, add more chicken broth until you get the consistency that strikes your fancy. You can also thicken up the broth by adding roux (butter and flour) to the pot before adding any other ingredients—and don’t forget those delicious okra pods!
Serve Gumbo with:
White rice, scallion garnish, filé powder, and a few squirts of Tabasco spicy sauce are typical accompaniments to gumbo. Since making the roux is such a labor of love, feeding gumbo to a large group of people is excellent.
Let me know if you try it!
Let me know how it goes, and share any tips you have for making gumbo. If you have variations or variations on the variations, let me know about those too! And feel free to send photos of your finished dishes: I’d love to see them!
I hope you enjoy this gumbo recipe as much as I do. It’s easy, delicious and healthy!