Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I made gumbo tonight. It was the best gumbo I have ever made. The recipe was requested and I am obliging.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, dredge 8 chicken thighs in 1 cup of flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper and saute until golden brown on both sides (my dutch oven holds 2 or 3 pieces at once - do not crowd the pan or they will steam instead of brown). Start each thigh skin-side down so you render as much fat as possible out into the pan. As they brown, move the pieces to a large plate or casserole dish.

After all the chicken is browned, you should have quite a bit of rendered fat left in the pan. If there's not enough to thickly cover the entire pan, add 1-2 tablespoons more oil. With the dutch oven over medium heat, whisk in 1/2 cup of the leftover dredging flour. Whisk constantly until the flour toasts and becomes golden brown. Stir in 3 ribs of diced celery, 1 large diced bell pepper (or 2 small ones) and 1 large diced yellow onion. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or a teaspoon of fresh thyme) and 2-4 cloves of minced garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the flour toasts a little more and the onions and peppers start to soften. Add one can of diced tomatoes (with its juice) and one can of chicken broth, scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the dutch oven. Once the mixture starts to boil, put the browned chicken back in the pan, nestling the pieces so they each are surrounded by the broth. Add another can of broth (assuming there's still room - if there's not, add until the pot is full), 3 bay leaves, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes to keep the bottom from burning.

During the last few minutes of the chicken's cooking time, slice 1 1/2 pounds of smoked Andouille sausage. Once the chicken is cooked, pull it out of the gumbo and put in a clean casserole dish or on a cutting board. Turn the gumbo down to your stove's lowest setting and heat a large skillet over medium high heat on another burner. Brown the sausage in the skillet and put it, along with any rendered-off fat, into the gumbo. By now, the chicken should be cool enough to handle; pull off the skin and discard (it's going to be very flabby and unappealing) and shred the chicken with two forks, discarding any bones or cartilage. Put the chicken back into the gumbo (along with any juices remaining in the casserole dish). Stir in 2-3 teaspoons of filé powder (also called gumbo filé, it is the dried and powdered leaves of the sassafras tree). The filé will thicken the gumbo, so it might be best to stir in a teaspoon at a time until it's as thick as you like. Serve over rice. You may add chopped scallions or parsley for garnish and flavor, and season with Tabasco sauce for heat (Crystal and Louisiana brand sauces may also be used if you must, but any addition of Frank's Red Hot will get you banned from Mardi Gras for life!)

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