The official state cuisine of Louisiana, gumbo primarily consists of a boldly flavoured stock spiked with meat and/or shellfish, as well as what’s known as the Creole ‘holy trinity’ of celery, green peppers and onions.
Although extremely popular in the United States, many food historians actually agree that gumbo has its origins in West Africa, with the word ‘gumbo’ derived from the West African word ‘ki ngombo’, meaning ‘okra’. To this day, okra remains a popular thickening agent, as well as filé – a powder made using dried sassafras leaves. The original West African gumbo has thus been described as a stew-like dish thickened with okra, with okra pods brought to the U.S. during the transatlantic slavery period, as okra was not native to the Americas.
Broadly, South Louisiana gumbo is described as an intersection of West African, Native American and European cultures. The filé powder is considered a Native American contribution, while the dark roux has its roots in French cooking.
Creole and Cajun gumbo are the two most popular variations of the dish, and while they have succinct differences, they’re both roux based. Creole gumbo, popular in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana typically features shellfish and tomatoes, while Cajun gumbo, traditional in southwestern parts of the state, ditches tomatoes and generally uses fowl such as chicken or duck, plus sausage or ham.
This chicken and sausage gumbo recipe is based with a dark French roux, which is quickly made by mixing flour with smoking hot oil, cooked down until the smell of raw flour dissipates and the roux has a dark colour akin to milk chocolate. The ‘holy trinity’ of celery, peppers and onions are then added before browned chicken, sausage, beer and chicken stock. It’s then slowly simmered for two-to-three hours. Both okra and filé powder are eschewed here, but can be added if desired and/or available. Garnish with spring onions and serve with rice.
- 120 ml vegetable or rapeseed oil plus extra for searing meat
- 65 g plain flour
- 1 green bell pepper roughly diced
- 2 sticks celery roughly diced
- 1 large white onion roughly diced
- 4 cloves garlic crushed/finely chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 250 ml beer such as lager or pilsner
- 500 g chicken thighs
- 350 g smoked sausage such as kielbasa or andouille, cut into coins
- 1 litre chicken stock
- Chopped spring onions to garnish
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- To begin, season the chicken and sausage with salt and pepper then heat a small splash of oil in a large, heavy based saucepan. Add the chicken and sausage in batches and cook until lightly browned all over.
- Remove the chicken and sausage from the pan and set aside until later.
- Pour 120ml of oil into the same pan and heat until smoking hot. Add the flour and stir or whisk constantly until the roux has a consistency similar to wet sand. Continue cooking over a high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until the roux has a colour similar to milk chocolate.
- At this point, quickly but carefully add the chopped celery, pepper and onion to the pan and stir. Continue to cook for another minute or two until the peppers, celery and onion have softened.
- Add the bay leaves and garlic and cook for another minute or so before adding the cayenne pepper, smoked paprika and thyme. After 30 seconds, pour in the beer and stir.
- Cook until the beer has reduced by around 2/3, continuing to stir often, then add the seared chicken and sausage to the pan, followed by the chicken stock, a pinch of salt and very generous amount of freshly ground black pepper (approx. 20-25 turns of the grinder).
- Bring the gumbo to a simmer, partially cover and cook for 2-3 hours until thickened.
- Taste for seasoning then serve with rice and garnish with sliced spring onions.