Gumbo is the definition of comfort food for me. It was one of the first dishes I fell in love with at a small but authentic Cajun restaurant in, of all places, Sioux Falls, SD as a teenager.
I had since tried to recreate that nostalgia but couldn’t get the roux, the base of this iconic soup, exactly right.
Enter one of the most entertaining chefs in the world, Isaac Toups, whose instructional video inspired the following recipe. I upped the spice a little and added some background savory elements of cumin and fish sauce, but the following recipe is a pretty close copy of his method, and is actually pretty easy when you understand the basic techniques and ingredients.
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil (don’t use olive oil….you need a high smoking point oil for the roux)
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 lb smoked andouille sausage, cut into 1/4″ coins
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 jalapeño, minced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 oz beer
- salt and black pepper (duh)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste…if your jalapeño is on the mild end of the spectrum then I’d up the cayenne)
- 1 TBSP fish sauce (optional)
- 1 tsp ground cumin (optional)
- 1 tsp fresh Thyme, finely chopped (not optional)
- Cooked white rice for serving
- 1 scallion, chopped for garnish
- Mise en place: This is a general rule of thumb for dishes such as this that need to be executed in a timely manner at the beginning….chop all your veggies, measure out your oil and flour and have them ready to go. For this recipe, you can combine the diced onion, green bell pepper, jalapeño, and celery in a bowl, but keep the garlic and thyme aside. Slice up your andouille sausage and leave aside. Have your chicken stock and an open beer ready to go (obviously drink some of the beer….you’ll only need about a quarter of it for the cooking)
- Chicken: Use a paper towel to pat-dry the chicken thighs, then season with salt and pepper and place in a skillet or shallow pan and a few splashes of oil. Turn your oven’s broiler to high heat (takes about 2-3 mins to get ripping hot). Cook under the broiler for 6 minutes, remove (don’t burn your goddamn hands, use a towel) then flip the thighs and cook for about 6 minutes more. You’re aiming for browned exterior…if the interior is underdone it doesn’t matter. Remove pan from the broiler and immediately deglaze with a couple splashes of beer, scooping up all the brown bits from the pan and set the pan aside.
- Roux: And now the fun begins. Isaac Toups unlocked the secret here…pay attention to your roux and don’t walk away for more than 10 seconds. Heat the oil in a dutch oven until it’s shimmering and lightly smoking then add your flour and whisk constantly over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until the roux gets to the color of a chocolate bar. Taking a break for a few seconds won’t burn the flour, but if you hadn’t already prepped your veggies, you’d be screwed.
- Combine: Once your roux is at that perfect dark brown color (it happens fast), toss in your chopped onions, celery, and peppers and stir for about 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and keep stirring for another minute….the roux is super hot, so you don’t want to burn the garlic. After this combo is highly aromatic, slowly pour in 2 cups of chicken stock while stirring and the rest is a piece of cake….
- The Rest: Your hard work is done. There’s no specific order of operations at this point, but what the key points are the following:
- Remove your chicken thighs from the pan and add the juices to the simmering gumbo
- Cut chicken thighs into smaller bite-sized chunks
- Add chicken, sliced andouille sausage, and chopped thyme to the gumbo
- Add a little bit more stock….it will reduce so it’s okay if it looks watery right now
- Add cayenne, cumin, and fish sauce and give everything a good stir.
- Hang Out: Once everything is combined, turn the heat to low, cover your dutch oven and enjoy yourself more beer or a glass of wine. Put on a movie but set a timer for every 30 minutes to check in and stir. If it’s starting to look a little to thick for your liking, add a bit more stock. Total cooking time ideal around 3 hours at low temp, but when it looks nicely reduced, just turn the heat off and it can rest for a couple hours or overnight even.
- Eat: Prepare some basic white rice (or even reheat some leftover rice), place in a bowl and spoon the delicious gumbo on the side or on top, then garnish with finely sliced scallions. Prepare for everyone to praise you for this delicious, somewhat technique-oriented, but overall straightforward Cajun classic.