|Chicken Gumbo with Andouille Sausage
1/3 pound bacon, diced
2-3 pounds chicken thighs, skin on
1-2 pounds andouille sausage
1/2 cup peanut or other vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 green peppers, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart water
1/2 to 1 pound okra, sliced into discs
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Cajun spice mix (or use a purchased blend)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 TBS sweet paprika
1 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS dried thyme
1 TBS dried oregano
Cook the diced bacon until crispy in a large stew pot set over medium heat. Remove the bacon and set aside; you'll add it back in when you serve your gumbo.
Once the bacon is cooked, set the chicken thighs skin side down in the bacon fat to crisp. Salt the meat side, which will be facing up in the pot. Cook the chicken, without moving, for at least 4-5 minutes before trying to turn the chicken over. Brown the other side of the chicken thighs. Incidentally, you start with skin side down to render some fat, which you will need for the roux.
Remove the browned chicken thighs and set aside. Brown the sausages in the fat, remove and set aside.
If you want, measure how much fat is in the pot; it should be about 1/2 cup. Or, do what I do and add 1/2 cup peanut oil to the pot. Let this heat up a minute or two, then stir in 1 cup flour. Stir this almost constantly for the first few minutes, then every couple minutes or so thereafter. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook this roux until it turns dark. How dark? I like my roux the color of coffee with just a tiny bit of cream. You can go all the way to chocolate brown, but be careful! If you burn your roux you will need to start over and make it again. This whole process can take 30 minutes.
While you are stirring and cooking the roux, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil in a separate pot.
Add to the roux the onion, green pepper and celery and mix well. Let this cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir again and cook for another 2 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste.
Using a large ladle, add the hot chicken stock to the gumbo. It will sizzle and seize up as the roux absorbs the liquid. Keep adding more stock, stirring all the time and scraping the bottom of the pot, to incorporate all the stock and all the roux. You might not need all 2 quarts, but add enough to make the gumbo slightly more watery than you want it to be at the end — remember you are going to cook this down for several hours. Stir in half the Cajun spice mix, taste the gumbo, and add more if you want.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add back the chicken thighs. Now you can either eat the skin while it's still crispy, or toss it into the gumbo and chop it fine later. I tend to do half-and-half. Simmer this gently, stirring from time to time, until the meat wants to fall off the bones of the chicken, about 90 minutes. Remove the chicken and let it cool a bit.
While the chicken is cooling, cut the andouille sausage into thick discs and drop them in the gumbo. Add the okra. Pick the chicken meat from the bones and chop it roughly. Add it back to the gumbo. At this point you can cook the gumbo for another hour, or up to several more hours, depending on how cooked down you want the final stew to be.
When you are ready to eat, add the green onions, parsley and bacon and stir well. Serve over rice, or with good French bread.
Yield: Serves 10-12.
Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 3 hours