Wild Thistle Kitchen: Dad’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

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Dad's chicken and sausage gumbo. Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Wild Thistle Kitchen.

As the title suggests, I learned this chicken and sausage gumbo recipe from my dad. Like I so often do, I made a few tiny changes to the process just to suit my cooking preferences and my family’s eating preferences, but it is still his recipe. This gumbo is pure comfort food. And comfort cooking. Nothing else smells like gumbo; nothing else tastes like gumbo. It is rich, warm, steeped in tradition and so flavorful and satisfying.

Snow Day Gumbo?

It might seem odd to associate gumbo with snow. A few years ago, before a huge snowstorm blew through, I decided if I was going to be snowed in, I was going to make gumbo. Just because. So I ran to the store with the rest of Northern Virginia and came home with the necessary loot. The next day I made it, and my house smelled like my dad’s.

Now, whenever a snowstorm is in the forecast, I always add gumbo supplies to the list. It is such a wonderful tradition. It is just the kind of food I want to make and eat when it’s icy cold outside. Making it now that my dad is gone is incredibly bittersweet and gives a whole new meaning to the term “cooking therapy.” I didn’t make gumbo for a very long time after he passed away, but once I finally ripped off that Band-Aid, I wished I had done it sooner (like so many things in life, right?). The process, the smells, it all made me feel like he was right there with me.

Tips for This Recipe

There are several steps to gumbo making, but they are simple. I highly recommend getting all your ingredients prepped, measured and ready to go before you begin cooking. It makes the process so much more enjoyable and less stressful.

Feel free to use your favorite Cajun seasoning rather than making your own, but I would caution that some are mostly salt, and VERY salty at that. Try to find one that has visible herbs, not just salt and powders. McCormick and Morton & Bassett both have good blends, but it isn’t difficult to make your own, and this chicken and sausage gumbo recipe will be that much better if you go the extra step.

I prefer to use boneless thighs for this. Controversial, I know. But there is already so much flavor going on in gumbo that the extra flavor from the bones is a sacrifice I’m okay with. And it makes it easier to serve and eat. My dad never used boneless, but he didn’t disown me for doing it, so I’ll take that as my badge of approval.

Do not walk away from your roux. Pour yourself some wine, turn on some music or a podcast and stay there and stir. If you’ve made risotto you can make a roux. I promise. Head over to my blog wildthistlekitchen.com for some step-by-step photos and more great recipes!

 

Dad’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Ingredients

For gumbo:

3 smoked sausages, such as kielbasa or andouille if you can find it, sliced into 3/4 to 1 inch slices

4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 bell peppers

2 medium yellow onions

4 celery stalks

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 dry bay leaves

8 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup Cajun seasoning

Hot sauce and chopped green onions and/or parsley for serving (optional)

For Cajun seasoning:

Note: This makes more than you will need for this recipe, so be sure not to put your chicken hands in it so you can save it for other recipes.

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme

For rice:

2 tablespoons neutral oil (I like grapeseed or avocado oil)

2 cups long-grain white rice

3 cups water

Instructions

Combine all Cajun seasoning ingredients in a bowl or a jar and mix thoroughly. Season chicken generously on both sides with Cajun seasoning (should take about 1/4 cup) and set aside. Either dice the vegetables very finely by hand or slice them into large chunks and let the food processor do all the work. Pulse them until they are minced, but not liquefied.

Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy, enameled Dutch oven and cook sausage slices until they are browned. Work in batches if needed to get them all browned. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and try not to eat it all (or try not to let your kids eat it all!).

Working in batches, over medium-high heat, brown the seasoned chicken thighs on both sides and remove to a dish to cool. Place browned chicken and sausage in the fridge while you continue with the recipe.

Add the remaining oil and the cup of flour to the pan. This is the most important step in the gumbo-making process. Over medium heat, stir slowly and constantly until your flour mixture becomes a very dark peanut-butter color and consistency. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes. Be patient and scrape the bottom to make sure it isn’t sticking and burning.

As soon as your roux is a nice dark peanut-butter/chocolatey color, add your minced vegetables immediately. Stir together — you will have a very thick, pasty mixture. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, then add your chicken stock slowly. Add bay leaves and sausages and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 1 hour. You want bubbles and a bit of reduction, but not a rapid boil.

After 1 hour, add chicken and cook for an additional 2 hours at a very gentle simmer, stirring and skimming fat occasionally.

To make the rice, heat oil in a large, lidded saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and toast until the rice goes from slightly translucent to a very opaque, brighter white. You’ll see what I mean. It’s okay if some of the kernels get a little brown. Add water, allow water to come to a boil and immediately turn heat to lowest setting, clamp on a lid and set your timer for 20 minutes. No peeking! After 20 minutes, slightly vent the lid and leave to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve gumbo in bowls with rice and good Louisiana hot sauce. Crystal is the brand my dad raised me on, and it’s still my favorite (and my son’s).

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