Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mom's healthier gumbo

I grew up in Louisiana, and gumbo is another one of those meals, like jambalaya and red beans and rice, that I took for granted until I moved away. Every good gumbo must have a nice dark roux. Typically, rouxs are made by toasting a paste of 1 part flour and 1 part fat together until it browns. I've taken to making a dry roux because it's easier: I just toast the dry flour in a pan until it browns. Plus, it reduces the amount of fat that would end up in your gumbo by more than 1/2 cup!

Everyone from Louisiana thinks their mother makes the best gumbo, and I am no exception. Below is my mom's recipe, tweaked a bit to work with a dry roux. There are tons of varieties of gumbo. The two most commons are chicken and sausage and crab and shrimp gumbo. The recipe below happens to be for chicken and sausage, but you could do any mixture of meat and/or seafood as well, just keep the proportions intact. For example, a fabulous seafood gumbo would be 1 lb sausage, 1 lb crabmeat, and 2 lbs shrimp. Add the seafood during the last 10 minutes of cooking, so it doesn't overcook.

Mom's Gumbo

1.5-2 lbs andouille sausage, sliced (or whatever flavorful pork-based smoked sausage you can get your hands on. Linguica is a good substitute.)
2.5-3 lbs chicken thighs (I like to use bone-in, and then remove the bones at the end of cooking to impart more flavor, but you could do boneless as well.)
2 medium onions, chopped
6 ribs celery, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup dry roux (see directions below)
1 quart chicken stock
15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 t dried thyme leaves
2 t Worchestershire sauce
2-3 t Tony Chacherie's seasoning (a Cajun cooking staple. Fortunately, most major grocery stores in the US seem to carry it. Buy some. Put it on everything.)
2 t paprika
1 t smoked paprika (optional)
1 lb sliced okra, roasted at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or 2 cans sliced okra, drained (optional)
approximately 2 cups water, to thin to desired consistency if needed

Tabasco sauce to taste
chopped green onions
rice (I do brown)

Brown sausage in a skillet over med-high. Don't be afraid to blacken it a little. Remove and set aside. Brown chicken, then remove and set aside. Brown onion, garlic, celery, and bell peppers.

Turn pan to medium, return meat to pan, add dry roux, and stir. Add liquid, slowly at first, stirring so the roux forms a paste. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for one hour, remove  from heat and add okra. Serve with a scoop of brown rice, fresh green onions, and a dash of Tabasco sauce.

Making Dry Roux
To make this recipe, you'll need 1 1/2 cups flour. But I like to double the batch so I will have some for later. It lasts for a year in the freezer, and you can just grab a couple of tablespoons to thicken a gravy with it.

Basically, you're just toasting flour in a large pan until it gets quite brown. You can either do this on the stovetop on medium, stirring frequently, or in the oven at 375, with less stirring required. This can take from 15-30 minutes. Be careful--dry flour is deceptive. It holds a lot of heat and can burn you. When it is ready, it will start to smell funny, like glue that's about to burn, but is not actually burned. It will be the color of a brown paper bag.

NOTE: To make a lower carb version, I have been reducing the amount of dry roux to 1/2 or 3/4 cup and adding a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree to thicken instead. No one will know the difference, I promise! And you're getting extra veggies!