I am ridiculously fond of Cajun and Creole food. I had a Cajun colleague many years ago who, after getting me over my fear that it was all about cayenne and nothing else, introduced me to the wonderful variety of flavors. I always remember her advice: “If all you taste is cayenne and heat, the cook is doing it wrong.”
You may be asking yourself what the difference is between Cajun and Creole, and it’s pretty simple: Creole dishes use tomatoes. Otherwise, the ingredients are pretty much the same, because they have the same regional ingredients and influences.
There are about a zillion kinds of gumbo. I like mine with okra, but a lot of people don’t care for that. Seafood gumbo can have shrimp, crawfish, oysters, you name it. Gumbo z’herbes, which is made with collards, is traditionally only served on St. Joseph’s Day and Good Friday. Today, I’m going to share a gumbo recipe from Marcelle Bienvenu’s Cajun Cooking for Beginners. I’m not going to lie; this is a prep-heavy dish. However, the time spent will pay off.
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo (Serves 8)
What you will need:
- 1 cup of vegetable oil
- 1 cup of flour
- 2 cups of chopped onion
- 1 cup of chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 cup of chopped celery
- 10 cups of water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground thyme
- 1 hen (about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into serving pieces
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne
- 1 pound of andouille, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons of chopped green onion
- 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
- Filé powder
- In a large heavy Dutch oven, combine the oil and flour over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 25 to 30 minutes, to make a dark brown roux.
- Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring often, for six to eight minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the water and blend into the roux mixture.
- Add the bay leaves and thyme.
- Season the chicken with salt and cayenne.
- Add the chicken to the roux-water mixture and simmer for one hour.
- Add the andouille and cook for one hour more, or until chicken is tender.
- Skim off any oil that has risen to the surface. Remove the bay leaves.
- Check seasonings. Add more salt and cayenne if necessary.
- Add the green onion and parsley.
- Serve immediately in soup bowls over steamed rice.
- Filé powder can be passed around at the table so that guests can add it to the gumbo according to individual tastes.
Here’s a song to go with the menu: Little Feat’s “Rad Gumbo.”