Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Gumbo

Now, I know perfectly well that gumbo is not a creation of Appalachian cooks. Indeed, the origins of this iconic dish of the Deep South are shrouded in mystery. The ingredients and techniques involved in making a good gumbo are derived from multiple traditions: okra came from Africa with enslaved people, andouille is clearly French in its origin, and the practice of substituting a mixture of onions, celery and bell peppers for the traditional European mirepoix, along with bold seasoning, comes from the Cajun people who settled in the Louisiana bayou country.

However much gumbo bears its regional imprint, its ingredients are readily available everywhere, and the technique for making it will be familiar to most cooks. If you cannot find fresh okra, frozen is just as good, and you need not even thaw it before adding it to the pot.

Good sides to go with gumbo are potato salad, three bean salad, and sweet corn in any form you like.

One Pot Chicken Gumbo
Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list. Everything you need should be available in any well-stocked grocery store. Some gumbo recipes call for thickening with a roux, which requires long cooking and some experience to get right. This recipe is foolproof, and relies on okra to thicken it. If you can’t find andouille, substitute any good smoked pork sausage. You can multiply the quantities and store the extra seasoning mix in an airtight container for use in other Louisiana-style dishes. (If you go that route, two tablespoons is the right amount for this dish.) The seasoning mix and the combination of onions, celery and bell peppers, create that distinctive Creole and Cajun flavor. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1½ teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 ounces andouille sausage
¾ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ pound okra, in half-inch pieces
1½ tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup drained and diced canned tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Cooked rice and sliced green onions, to serve
Hot sauce

Combine the paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, and black pepper in a small bowl.  Mix well and set aside. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Sprinkle half the seasoning mix over it and allow to stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Chop the andouille into ¼” dice.  Combine the onion, celery and bell pepper in a small bowl.

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it ripples. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry until they are lightly browned.  Transfer the chicken to a plate. Reduce the heat and add the sausage.  Cook until browned.  With a metal spoon, remove any excess fat. Add half the chopped vegetables and half the remaining seasoning mix.  Cook until the onion is translucent.  Add the okra, the garlic and one cup of the chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring well. Adjust the heat and simmer until the stock is reduced by half. Add remaining chopped vegetables, the tomatoes, the remaining seasoning mix, bay leaves, remaining 3 cups of stock and the chicken, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate.  Simmer 30 minutes.  Serve with rice, topped with chopped scallions. Pass hot sauce.