Gumbo is one of my (Mark’s) all-time favorite dishes and one of the first I learned how to cook when I was a teenager. This recipe has come a long way since the first attempt obviously, and I think it is right up there with the best I’ve ever eaten (humble brag). This Chicken and Sausage Gumbo is a perfect cold-weather southern dish that you will make over and over!
What is Gumbo?
This question is quite complicated. It’s sort of like asking people from Memphis, Houston, St. Louis and North Carolina what “barbeque” is. You may get 12 different answers!! And if you aren’t familiar with any of these regional variations of “barbeque,” then the point here is that foods differ based on region, state, city, availability of ingredients and even household. But, thankfully Gumbo isn’t as contentious or divided.
Gumbo is, at its core, a stew. Period. From there, we can go in a variety of directions, but suffice to say, it is NOT a soup and it should never ever be dry. Rice is the most common accompaniment, but it isn’t “part of the dish.” Meaning, rice is not cooked with the gumbo like you see with some dishes, like Jambalaya. Filé powder, tomatoes, and okra are ingredients in gumbo that can be contentious to the Gumbo police of the world. But these ingredients often define what “type” of gumbo you’re making, which can differ. So, there you go, more questions than answers, but taste is what matters!
We aren’t trying to be gumbo historians here, so we’ll leave it at that and you can research all you want if you want to learn more. But gumbo is a stew, and it is one of the most flavorful, heartwarming, and popular dishes throughout the South, especially in its home state of Louisiana.
Roux: The Key to Great Gumbo
There is one very important component that every great gumbo has going for it – the roux. Roux, at its essence, is equal parts flour and fat (e.g., butter, oil, drippings, etc.) by weight. To make the roux, you combine the flour and fat over heat and whisk as it cooks to the desired doneness from blonde (lightly cooked) to a chocolate brown. In gumbo, the latter is preferred.
Although roux is one of the simplest things you could possibly make, getting the cook right for a gumbo is a little bit delicate. An over-done roux will leave an overly bitter taste in the gumbo that is, most likely, going to ruin the dish. An under-done roux will leave your gumbo pale and lacking in depth and flavor. With a little practice, you can achieve the perfect roux for your gumbo. There is a window of personal preference as well, so don’t be deterred!
The Holy Trinity
In gumbo, and many dishes that are of Cajun origin or regional cuisines of Louisiana, the traditional French mirepoix is altered by replacing carrots with bell peppers (often referred to as the “holy trinity” of cooking).
Ratios have tradition, but they are not set in stone, so there is a bit of wiggle room when creating the onion, celery, and bell pepper base for your gumbo. We like to layer flavors, and that is why we add the “trinity” in two batches. The first will cook down in the roux and almost dissolve. The second will just maintain its shape enough to recognize it when the dish is complete. But the result is an additional flavor profile within the gumbo. Regardless, carrots are not a part of gumbo, but bell peppers are! So, if you are familiar with the flavor base of mirepoix, just realize that there are variations and they are spectacular as well!
Which Protein to Use in Gumbo
Gumbo can be made with so many different proteins that you may be wondering what is best! Well, what you like will be the best, so don’t fret. Here is a sampling of the proteins I have had in gumbos over the years: duck, chicken, goose, shrimp, fish, crab, crawfish, sausage, snake, and pork. So, you can see, there are options!
But I have a preference if I know there are going to be leftovers (which we always make sure we have), and that is to keep it simple and make sure your protein lives on land. It can walk or fly, but it should be a landlubber. I absolutely love seafood gumbo, but it is best the day it is made and, in my opinion, starts to get worse with age, while land-based proteins get better for a day or two after making it.
We love the flavors of andouille sausage and chicken thighs in our gumbo. The ratios are not as important though and neither are the cuts. If you prefer chicken, use more chicken. The phrase “do you” works with gumbo.
Now, some will say that if you use sausage, it MUST be Cajun andouille, but if you can’t find it or prefer another smoked sausage, then go for it! You are making it for you, not self-proclaimed gumbo authorities. But andouille and chicken thighs will impart an impeccable flavor to your gumbo.
What should you serve with Gumbo?
There are a couple go-to choices for gumbo, but we typically choose to eat it with rice or alone, but rice is the most common.
Long-grain rice is the ticket for success here. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or special, as rice is grown in many places. Just go for the long-grain rice that doesn’t have massive amounts of starch. When the rice is cooked, it should not be a sticky mess – the grains should separate.
You could certainly exchange the rice for potato salad and put that in gumbo as is traditional in certain places and households in the South, but that’s another story! Even without rice, potato salad or anything else, gumbo, and THIS gumbo, is fantastic by itself, as well.
Our Homemade Cajun Seasoning
Of course you can always use your favorite Cajun seasoning in this Gumbo, but if you have the ingredients, you should consider making our version. Here’s what you need:
- 4 tsp Cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp dried mustard
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
We hope you enjoy this recipe for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below and tell us how you liked it!
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Looking for more Soups and Stews? Check these out!
- Stewed Spiced Pork with Cinnamon Rice
- Guinness Beef Stew
- Spiced Carrot Ginger and Fennel Soup
- Restaurant Style French Onion Soup
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