Gumbo is the state cuisine of Louisiana, a tradition for thousands of southern families, and something to throw punches over if someone tries to add trash ingredients to your mix.
Okra, filé powder, tomato, eggs, and roux. These are important choices that can shatter a southern family if one member goes rogue and starts throwing sacrilegious items into the pot. We don’t use okra or tomato in ours, and my dad is the only family member that adds filé in his bowl. We’ve argued over scratch roux vs. jarred and just what is it about eggs that makes dropping some into a simmering pot of gumbo transform it into the best thing you’ve ever eaten.
My dad has been perfecting his recipe for gumbo for most of my life and we’ve attempted to bully him into competing several times. Gumbo technique is sacred (even in SETX) and I had to bully him into giving me his recipe with several compliments and the help of a heathen brew that consists of cheap gin and Black Cherry White Claw (still not sponsored).
We don’t do gumbo by halves, we spend an entire weekend working it up. Gumbo is best started on Saturday afternoon with a home stock made with two fryer chickens and some limp veg you probably happen to have in your crisper.
You’ll need a big stock pot (people are going to exhaust you with their Magnalite chatter, but it’s not necessary to have one), two fryer chickens ready to go in the pot (clean them up and remove the nasty bits), carrots, celery, garlic cloves, an onion, black pepper, and I usually toss some bay leaves in. Cover your chicken with water and turn it up.
Let everything simmer for 3-4 hours (pull the chickens with tongs and shred them around an hour in) and skim the foam as necessary. Strain the stock and cool in your fridge overnight and skim the grease from the top the next morning. This is a clean gumbo and you shouldn’t have heartburn, even after eating three bowls.
- 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You’ll also use that chicken meat you pulled from your stock carcasses, so please don’t do anything insane like toss it out.
- 4 packs of smoked sausage. We prefer Beasley’s as it’s local, delicious, and they make a bomb green onion and jalapeño mix.
- 2 – 16 oz. jars of Doguet’s roux. Here’s the thing, scratch roux is cool, but we already spent a ton of time making stock and scratch roux tastes exactly like jarred.
- 5 big yellow onions
- 2 green bell peppers
- 5 stalks of celery, plus their leaves
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Salt, to taste
- White pepper
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Dried parsley
- Accent flavor enhancer. Just a couple of shakes of msg, it won’t kill you… probably.
- 3 bunches of green onions
- 18 pack of eggs
- 3 qts. Beef broth
Get your perfect, grease free chicken stock out and get your pot started on coming up to a hard simmer. Add your extra beef broth and roux, start with melting in one jar and then spooning in more from the second jar as you taste. Some people prefer really dark and bitter gumbo and others want it lighter. You’ll know when you’ve gone too far because you’ll have to break out a can or two of beef stock you luckily keep on hand to thin it.
Season up your soup base with some salt, parsley, the garlic and onion powders, and your ground peppers. Be careful with the ground peppers and start small. 1/2 teaspoon each of the black and white and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne and then taste before adding more. We’re going to doctor the seasonings again later, so don’t panic and pour in an entire jar of salt. Pour yourself a drink and calm down.
Slice your ridiculous amount of sausage into thin rounds and lightly brown it all and drain on paper towels. You’re not charring this stuff, so pay attention and don’t get distracted while fixing another drink. You just want to degrease the sausage a bit and get a little brown color on it. This is not a guideline, if you overdo the browning and end up with charred sausage chunks, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Chop your bell peppers, onion, and celery. Add your veg to the pot and let it simmer for an hour, stirring whenever you come inside to refresh your bev.
Pull out the boneless skinless thighs and toss them into the pot and add your browned sausage as well. I usually hold off until right before egg poaching time to add the rescued stock meat as it’s already pretty broken down. Let your gumbo simmer for about 25 minutes. Your chicken thighs should start to shred on their own when you poke them with the ladle.
A watched pot never simmers, so take this time to finely chop your mountain of green onions. We like to add the onion whites to the pot right as we chop to give them a chance to soften. Save your chopped green ends until you notice your chicken is shredding. Toss in the green onions, the shredded stock chicken, and start adjusting your seasonings. Add more white/black pepper if you need it, but be careful with the cayenne. You might need more salt at this stage, but the sausage likely took care of the sodium levels. This is also the time to do a quick trinity blessing over your gumbo and shake in that Accent while nobody is watching.
Carefully crack all 18 eggs into the pot and let the whole thing simmer right under a boil until the eggs are poached through. Serve over rice, or potato salad if you’re weird.
My dad seriously makes the best gumbo. It’s so effing good that we call him The Rouxster as a joke when we try to bully him into entering a cook-off. I forced my husband to doodle the below picture for The Rouxster last week while I tried to talk him into letting me post his secret recipe. I like to think it’s the only reason he agreed, but it was probably the flattery and poorly mixed drinks.