It’s going to take me years, likely, the rest of my life to master the nuance of New Orleans cooking. Luckily, it’s a delicious road to travel.
I’ve been making gumbo here and there for the past year. Getting a roux just right takes trust and patience, a can of beer and a good chat with a friend. More on that later.
Gumbo, with it’s incredibly flavorful, gravy-live broth seemed a cheeky topping for French fries and cheese curds. Gumbo gone Canadian in one of the best mash-up dishes to ever come out of my kitchen. See also: Red Beans and Rice Nachos.
We’re working towards the weekend which, if you ask me, could be well spent building the flavors for a gumbo and then serving it over crispy fries for friends.
I’m telling you- this dish is beyond!
Here’s where we start- with a big ol’ cast-iron pan.
- chicken thighs: Boneless and skinless OR boneless and skin-on. If you’re using skin on (which I think is a very fine idea) you can cook and render the fat from the skin.
- andouille sausage
- chopped onions + celery + green bell pepper. Otherwise known as the trinity and here’s why.
- oil and flour because we’re making a roux. A dark one… get excited!
- spices and bay leaves
- chicken stock, too!
Start by browning the chicken. If you’re using skin-on chicken, brown the skin side down until the fat is rendered. Flip the chicken to cook on all sides. Add the sausage too and cook until just browned.
Remove the mostly cooked meats from the pan, leaving the delicious and important oils behind.
Now… we’ll add more oil. Trust the process.
A roux starts with equal parts oil and flour. I used one cup of oil to one up of flour for this big batch of gumbo.
Making a small batch of gumbo seems like a fool’s errand.
A good roux is the base, the life-blood, the everything of gumbo. We’re slowly toasting the flour in fat to create a layer of flavor that will also thicken our gumbo to a perfectly luscious, almost-gravy consistency.
Emeril Lagasse has some encouraging thoughts about making a roux. It’s a very trusting activity.
I haven’t been making a roux my whole life, but in my time here in New Orleans I’ve made enough to know the difference between my successes and failures in the pan.
Roux is cooked over medium to medium-high heat until the flour toasts to a chocolate brown. The best way I’ve been taught is to open a can of beer and have a sip, stand casually by your pot of roux- certainly in stirring distance- so the roux knows it has your attention. Stir very frequently to near constantly while sipping your beer and chatting with a friend. When the beer is nearly gone, your roux should be browning well. Try it, don’t drink too fast, offer your friend a beer too- don’t be rude.
I made this recipe when my Dad was visiting last year. He said, “oh beer goes in the roux!?”. No dad, I have to drink this in order to cook the roux. This is how you learn Louisiana cooking- time is measured in beer and chats.
After the roux is pleasingly browned, add the trinity.
The trinity can be raw or you can have cooked it down a bit.
Add the spices and bay. Add the sausage.
Add the chicken if you’d like it to cook down to shreds. If you’d like your chicken in more full pieces, don’t add it until later.
Chicken stock aaaand a good long simmer. Uncovered. We want the gumbo to reduce and thicken. I let the gumbo simmer for about two hours, stirring often to ever-so-often to make sure no big bits were sticking to the bottom of the pan.
While the gumbo simmers and perfumes the house, why not bake some fries?
We’re going to all this effort to make a beautiful gumbo and the truth is we’re using store-bought frozen french fries as our base. The reason? Because they’re pretty dang delicious and they have the supportive crunch we need as a base for our gravy gumbo.
Making fries from scratch… I’m afraid they’d be limp unless we successfully double fried them… and we only have so much energy and so many pans, and we’re not going to deep fry while gumbo is simmering away when frozen fries are actually just what we need.
Grab the thin fries and cook to golden and crisp.
Poutine is traditionally served with cheese curds and if you’ve never tried them well NOW IS THE TIME! Delicious!
Topped with warm, thick Gumbo. Amen.
Fresh greens by way of green onion and parsley.
And angels sing. I’m confident in that.
And if you play your cards right you’ll have gumbo left over for the next day’s dinner!
- 4 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more if you'd like
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme or about 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
- 10 - 12 cups chicken stock
- 1/3 cup chopped green onions, whites and greens, plus more for topping
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for topping
- 2 large bags frozen french fries
- cheese curds
- Start with a large, heavy-bottom pan. I used a large dutch oven- the heavy cast iron type of pan.
- Place the pan over medium heat and allow it to warm. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down and cook, allowing the skin to brown and release its fat. Flip the chicken and continue to cook until browned on all sides and a good amount of fat has rendered into the pan.
- Remove the chicken and place on a large plate. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and allow it to hang out with the chicken.
- Now is also a good time to remove the chicken skin and discard it. We were using it for the fat and now that we've rendered it, we can throw the skin away.
- Add vegetable oil to the pan. Add flour to the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and whisk the flour into the oil mixture and continue whisking frequently as the flour begins to toast and brown. You can use either a flat whisk or a wooden spoon once all of the lumps have loosened in the flour.
- Cook the roux to a milk chocolate color, this usually takes me 20 to 25 minutes but your time may vary.
- Once you've achieved your desired brown in your roux, add onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic and cooked sausage. Stir to combine and cook until the vegetables have begun to soften- 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and chicken stock.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the chicken and any juices from the plate and simmer and reduce until thickened, about 1 hour more.
- Stir in the green onions and parsley. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves.
- To make the fries, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cook fries on baking sheets in a single layer until cooked through and crisp- usually about 20 minutes but check the instructions on your particular french fry bag.
- Remove from the oven and gather into small serving dishes. Top the fries with cheese curds, a hearty ladle of gumbo, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Enjoy hot with cold beer! Store any leftover gumbo in the refrigerator.