It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not talking about “Pumpkin Spice Lattes.” I’m referring to the best time of year…GUMBO SEASON! Dating and then marrying my wife, a Boudreaux, I couldn’t make gumbo throughout the year. I have to wait until the temperature begins to drop and there is a coolness in the air before I man that first pot.
Gumbo is a Louisiana tradition primarily consisting of a meat, sausage, stock, the “trinity,” seasonings, and of course the roux. There are many variations of gumbos: seafood, Creole, Cajun, New Orleans. Each one of those gumbos has a special place in Louisianians’ hearts. And those individuals will always say, “My gumbo is the best” or “Nothing is better than my Maw-Maws.”
Being a Filipino born and raised in Louisiana my first gumbo was from a close family friend of ours from Kraemer, Louisiana aka “Bayou Boeuf.” It’s a little town about 22 minutes northeast of Thibodaux. This Cajun town is where my uncle was the priest at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. But back to her gumbo…it is ingrained in my memories forever. To me it was the “gold standard” of what gumbo is supposed to be. The chicken legs cooked perfectly. The combination of the chicken broth and her dark roux was in sync with one another.
When I first started to make my gumbos, she was the first person I contacted. She saw my Facebook posts and I would ask her for her comments. I took those words and improved my gumbo over time. When I bought my first house and being the Catholic that I am, I had a house warming party. The main dish for this get together was my version of gumbo. It did not disappoint. And Ms. Evelyn thought very highly of it.
I begin with my pot and it can be either cast iron, magnalite, or stock pot. I get the pot hot and start to sear the chicken. After the chicken sears, i then remove and sear the sausage (smoked or Andouille). When the sausage has a good searing, I remove it to drain. There is a lot of fat left in the pot now, so I used that fat to begin my roux.
The most daunting part of a gumbo is the roux. Its easy to ruin. To me, the perfect roux is the shade between peanut butter and Nutella. It takes tender, love, and care when making it. Basically, roux is equal parts fat to flour. For my roux I use the leftover fat that is in the pot but I also use a couple of generous tablespoons of bacon fat. After cooking bacon, I just save the fat because it provides another depth of flavor for my roux.
After I reach the desired darkness of my roux, I then cook my “trinity” of onions, green bell peppers, and garlic in it. From there I begin to add and layer the chicken and sausage. When all is incorporated, I add my water and sometimes chicken stock. For the chicken stock, I usually make it with leftover rotisserie chicken bones or leftover Thanksgiving turkey bones (be one the lookout for that post in the future!). Once all is incorporated, I set on the stove for an all day simmer. C’est Bon!