When I’m experimenting with a new recipe, I always get nervous. Especially when I’m cooking for a crowd… and it happens to be gumbo… and everyone expects me to naturally know how to make it. Before this, I had never made a gumbo from scratch. I made it once before, but I used the Savoie’s Roux sold in grocery stores back in Louisiana. And even then, it didn’t turn out that great. And while I’d made a roux before, it was always a light roux for etouffees and such, never a dark one.
My mother shared a horror story from her first attempt at making gumbo from scratch. She messed up on the roux and the whole thing turned to such a mess that she wouldn’t even let my dad taste it. From that point on, she only used Savoie’s premade roux.
A couple of weekends ago, I took a swing at a homemade gumbo to rally support for the Saints game. I went to Emeril for advice and basically used this recipe. Below is what I did.
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp Emeril’s Seasoning (recipe below)
3 bay leaves
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
Steamed white rice
Emeril’s Seasoning (you’ll end up with much more than you need, but it will leave you with seasoning for the future):
2 ½ Tblsp paprika
2 Tblsp salt
2 Tblsp garlic powder
1 Tblsp black pepper
1 Tblsp onion powder
1 Tblsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp dried oregano
1 Tblsp dried thyme
Now if you read Emeril’s recipe, he does a lot more work with the meat. I took my mom’s advice and skipped that whole process. Too much work and our way turned out fantastic with a lot less effort. You’ll see below.
First off, chop up all the veggies. I used 2 large white onions, 1 bunch of celery, 2 green bell peppers and 1 bunch of green onions. When chopping up the green onions, take the bottom half and add to the veggie mixture, the top half (aka the green part), you can chop and place to the side in a small bowl for garnishing later.
Making the roux: combine vegetable oil and flour in a very large pot. Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until the roux is the color of a dark chocolate. Emeril said about 20-25 minutes. I stirred for a good 35-40 minutes.
Now you’ll add the veggie mixture you’ve previously chopped. Stir for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add in Emeril’s Seasoning, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Stir for about 2 minutes and then slowly start to add the chicken stock. Bring up to a boil. Once the mixture is mostly combined, drop in the chopped, uncooked chicken and sausage, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for at least an hour.
Note: this is when I got super nervous. The liquid appeared to just be chicken stock soup with flecks of roux stirring around. It was not appetizing in the least. But after you let the gumbo simmer for a good long while, it all comes together and looks and tastes the way it should. Like heaven.
Somewhere in the simmering time, sprinkle in a few hefty shakes of hot sauce.
Serve up over rice, with a sprinkling of those reserved green onions and perhaps a tasty side of garlic bread. I’ll be honest. I am very picky in the world of Cajun food outside of Louisiana. And this was so much more than satisfactory. It was crazy delicious. I was proud to serve this to several people who’d never actually tasted gumbo. Success. Try it. Do it. Now. The weather is perfect.