Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo for the International Incident Gumbo Party


International Incident Gumbo Party
In a completely uncharacteristic move, I am tardy for the International Incident Party, hosted as ever by the lovely and talented Penny aka Jeroxie. Late for a gumbo party no less! This is a truly shocking move given my love for all things Gulf Coast, particularly New Orleans and the surrounding Cajun country. I was married in a New Orleans voodoo temple after all, not to mention that last year I even made gumbo z'herbes in a guest post for none other than Penny herself!

But better late than never, right? And anyway, gumbo is even more delicious the next day.

Now, usually I look at International Incident Parties as a great excuse to challenge myself and come up with something new and creative (and sometimes kind of weird). But gumbo is so perfect already that I thought this time - just this once!-  I'd do my best to honor this classic and beautiful dish as is. And so rather than share a recipe, I thought instead I'd share the general method and what I feel to be the heart and soul of a good gumbo.

But first, some terminology. Many people think that "Cajun" and "Creole" and interchangeable - this is most definitely not the case.  Very simply put, in culinary terms Creole refers to the city cuisine of New Orleans, while Cajun refers to the foods of the countryside and bayou. The Cajuns are descended from the French Acadians of Nova Scotia who emigrated to the Louisiana Bayou to escape religious persecution in the eighteenth century, while the New Orleans Creoles are descended from the French, Spanish, and free people of color. As a general rule (though all rules are made to be broken) Cajun food tends to be more spicy and "one-pot," while Creole foods generally have a more clear connection with traditional French cuisine, though it is unmistakably a distinct cuisine of its very own.

A New Orleans Creole gumbo typically contains seafood and tomatoes and is made with a seafood stock, while it's more common for a Cajun gumbo to contain sausage and chicken and more liberal doses of cayenne pepper. But one thing these gumbos have in common is that they begin with a roux.

And why is that? Because a gumbo without a roux isn't gumbo, it's stew. 

After all, without a roux, how are you going to get that glorious thick broth that's loaded with layers of flavor? Mmmm....
Roux - made from equal parts oil and flour -  can be blonde, brown, brick red, or nearly black. The darker the roux the more intense the flavor, but the darker it is, the less thickening power it will have. Other gumbo thickeners include okra, which was brought to Louisiana by African slaves (one West African word for okra is  gombo), and filĂ© powder, which is ground sassafras, a Native American ingredient. For a really great discussion of gumbo in general and roux in particular, check out Cajun and Creole cuisine expert Drick's chicken sausage gumbo post at his awesome blog,  Drick's Rambling Cafe.

Okay - so what do you need to make a great Cajun gumbo? First, the right music. Get yourself some tunes by Clifton Chenier, King of the Zydeco - Poppa Trix and I have over 200, and let me tell you, I could not stir my roux (or anything else, for that matter) without it:

I made my roux a medium chocolate color for this gumbo, using 3/4 cup each oil and flour. Next, you must have what is known as the trinity - diced onions, celery, and green pepper. Add this to your roux when your roux is finished and saute, along with your seasonings. I like to use a homemade Cajun spice blend with lots of Cayenne pepper, thyme, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, white pepper, black pepper, salt, and onion powder.

Next requirement: stock. You can either use chicken stock you just made (saving the chicken meat for the gumbo, of course) or left over chicken stock (since I had some, that's what I did).  I used about 2 quarts.

At this point, it's time to add the proteins. Traditionally, Andouille is the sausage of choice, but in a nod to my locale, I used some local spicy pork and sage sausage, which I fried until crispy, sliced into coins, and then added to the pot. I also used about a pound of boneless chicken thighs.

For your Complete Gumbo Experience, you just need a few more things: Creole boiled rice, hot sauce (I recommend Crystal), sliced green onions, light and crispy French bread, and of course a beer - preferably Abita. And now it's time to eat.

La, chere, that's not so hard, is it?
And now please go and check out what everyone else brought to the gumbo party!





17 comments:

  1. What a delicious looking gumbo! That also would've been perfect to make today on this cold Sunday! Instead, I made strawberry bread.

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  2. Fun post and great great gumbo! Just what I would love to have presented to me on a beautiful white soup bowl like you have!

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  3. This gumbo is beautiful!! Oh, I'll pull out my spoon right now.

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  4. Yep, I made a stew, not a gumbo but that's ok. Next time when I want an authentic recipe, I will come here and make this. YUMMO!

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  5. A beautiful gumbo as well, no frills needed as you say. Lots of good research info too!

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  6. oh how I wish I could write like you, you so inspire me to be better (sounds like a line from a movie huh?) ... let me say this, I do not know too many folks up your way who know the difference in making a good gumbo, of course, this does not surprise me one iota that you would not... and I must say, your gumbo is one as it should be, a pot of goodness made with the spirit of love for the foods it represents...

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  7. I'm not a fan of gumbo...probably because I haven't had a good one, YET...but this looks seriously awesome!

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  8. This looks delectable, and thank you for the intriguing background information as well!

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  9. Love the background story. I want to make a dark roux the next time. It needs a little courage to do that I think :)

    Better late than never! love your work

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  10. I am completely smitten with this recipe! And now, I want to visit N.O. (We are watching Treme now on DVD--does that count?)

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  11. You're late and I forgot about it :( Thank you for teaching me the difference between Cajun and Creole. The cuisine of Louisiana has always fascinated me and left my tummy very content. Your Gumbo looks scrumptious and I have to try it.

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  12. Great post and fantastic looking gumbo...just look at that perfect broth, very nice!!!

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  13. Your gumbo is looking awesome, love the color of the roux. Excellent!

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  14. This is a bowl of gumbo made from the heart and that's always the best kind, now bring on the potato salad and for me the meal will be complete;-)

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  15. hi there my friend you did a great job on this one! I have never had gumbo! looks great!~

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  16. Trix, how you've managed to make your gumbo look hearty yet light and refreshing at the same time, I'll never know. Just looking at the appealing roux makes me want to sip it with a straw without any care about the consequences! Thanks also for educating us about the different types of gumbo and the music of the King of the Zydeco, it's humbling to realize there was so much I didn't know before I met you ;-). Brilliant Sunday afternoon write-up, girl!

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