Gumbo just like Maman made it

I don't actually have a maman, but my mama and my grandma and everyone I've spoken to about gumbo seems to have made gumbo before, so it was about time I gave it a whirl. Being a native Houstonian, only 4 hours from the Louisiana border, I've encountered a lot of gumbo in my life. And being an extremely picky eater the first, oh, 28 years of my life, I've rejected a lot of gumbo. Celery? Bell peppers? Onions? Okra? All on my unh-uh list for many, many years (except pickled okra, the odd exception that proves the rule). The food awakening I have experienced quite recently means that, given the correct consistency, I'll try just about anything, and the miracle that occurs when certain veggies are blended is not to be missed. So I can't say whether this was the best gumbo ever or simply the best one I've made.

I went with chicken-sausage gumbo, mostly because I didn't want to splurge on seafood and then not really want to eat the stuff. After enjoying the heck out of it, I tried a gumbo z'herbes (green gumbo) basically using up all the random greens from the CSA the week before. That one got cooked up a few hours before flying out to Phoenix on vacation, so we've had only the teensiest of tastes and the rest is safely stored in the freezer.

There is a lot of chopping involved in gumbo preparation. I was fortunate to have the most delightful and willing of sous chefs, Mr. Leaven, who sacrificially slices all my onions (I have a crazy strong reaction to onions and often have to put the knife down because my eyes will not stay open and chopping onions blindly is not a good idea), will chop anything I place before him, and tidies the kitchen as we work (I love this guy!).

Once all the prep work is done, the process really isn't too bad. Whisking the roux could be considered tedious, but you're so mesmerized by the color change from cream to beige to tan to peanut butter (and you can go beyond, to almost black if desired, but I hear that that adds a bitterness I wasn't interested in replicating) that it's over before you know it. I made a roux for the gumbo z'herbes and also added okra, although neither of these things were recommended in the recipes I found, simply because making oil change color is satisfying, and also because there were okra left in the fridge before vacation.

minute 0
minute 5
minute 10
minute 15

added onions, then another 10 minutes or so

These recipes make a lot of gumbo. We ate the chicken-sausage gumbo for 3 straight nights, and we have 3 large containers in the freezer. They also make very, very tasty gumbo. I am shocked how much I like this stuff. Mr Leaven likes it too.

We served it over Louisiana rice. That recipe's included in the PDF (click here), along with the chicken-sausage recipe and, as always with Daring Kitchen, a ton of helpful hints and information. I didn't make my own chicken stock and I didn't make my own Creole spices - I used our staple, Tony Chacheres - but I followed the recipe pretty closely otherwise. We didn't have to look farther than the nearest supermarket for all the ingredients, but I can imagine they'd be easier to find in Houston than in, say, Des Moines. I'll copy the recipe here and include my modifications.

Blog-checking lines: Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Serves 10-12

1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 Tbsp butter or canola oil
2 large onions, diced

1 cup rendered chicken fat, duck fat, lard, or canola oil
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons Creole spice blend
2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces  andouille sausage, chopped
2 cups sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Filé powder, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice

Make sure all of your ingredients are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.

Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter or canola oil and brown the chicken on all sides. This may need to be done in 2 batches. Remove the chicken and set aside. When cool, you can remove the meat from the bones or you can cook the gumbo with the bone in for more flavor (and more bones in your soup).

Add another tablespoon of butter or oil if needed, and saute the chopped onion until translucent (I like my onions a little overdone so I wait till they're brown and maybe even burned). Set these aside too.

In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the fat or canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown (like peanut butter) in color, about 15 minutes.

Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces, about 5-10 minutes.

Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.

Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.

this is what it looks like when you transfer it from your large Dutch oven to your very large stock pot

Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

Add the chopped andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.

Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.

 And here's the Gumbo z'herbes recipe:

Gumbo Z'herbes Recipe

5 bunches greens, such as collard greens, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spinach, parsley, beet tops, carrot tops, or turnip tops (enough to equal about 3 pounds)
3 cups water

2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, medium dice
4 celery stalks, medium dice
1 large garlic clove, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 whole cloves
3 allspice berries (I used 1/2 tsp of ground allspice)
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced marjoram leaves (I used 1/2 tsp of dried marjoram)
Green Tabasco (I didn't use any Tabasco, but it was pretty peppery - I think it was one of the greens)

Rinse and trim the greens, removing any dried-out parts or tough stems that don’t break easily. If you’re using collards, remove the tough inner rib that runs up the center of each leaf.

Fill the sink with cold water and submerge all the greens. Leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes, then lift from the water and place in a colander. (Don’t drain the sink with the greens still in it: Soaking the greens allows all the sand and grit to settle to the bottom of the sink—if you drain it, your greens are left sitting in the silty stuff.) If necessary, repeat this process.

Chop or tear the greens into large pieces and place in a large saucepan or pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add water and season generously with salt; place over medium-high heat. When the water in the pot begins to simmer, tightly cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the greens, occasionally turning with a pair of tongs, until they are very soft and wilted, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain the greens, being sure to reserve the cooking liquid. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. Allow the greens to cool slightly, then chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. Take about half of the chopped greens and purée them in a food processor or blender (if the greens will not blend, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid to help them along); set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. When it is hot, slowly sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to prevent any lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the roux, stirring constantly and taking care to scrape out the corners of the pan, until it is a nutty brown color (the color of peanut butter) and emits a toasted aroma, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Use a wooden spoon to stir the onion, scallions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic into the pot. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened and the garlic is no longer raw-smelling, about 5 minutes.

Add the reserved cooking liquid along with the vegetable broth or water, stirring well to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the measured salt, Cajun seasoning, cloves, allspice, and bay leaves and simmer, stirring often, until the gumbo base is soupy and thick and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the chopped and puréed greens and marjoram; cover the pot and simmer 10 minutes. Add Tabasco to taste and serve over cooked white rice, garnished with thinly sliced scallion tops.


  1. i have just dropped in to say hi. Ur recipe seems very good, must have made u sweat. Anyways good luck.


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