13 May 2011

Daring Cooks May Challenge: Gumbo- Let the good times roll!

Gumbo served with rice and filé powder. 

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. For a pdf file of all of Denise’s info, click here.

This was my first foray into Gumbo land. It's been on my to make list for a while, but since I don't live in the US anymore, it has had a low priority. I'd read that you couldn't make true gumbo without filé powder and I'd never seen that in my US grocer, so it was on hold. Early one morning in April, however, while killing time before my flight to the US in a hotel room in Frankfurt, I logged onto the Daring Kitchen and discovered that I would be making gumbo within the next month. I added filé powder to my must-buy-while-I'm-in-the-US list and got excited. 

I also had to admit that part of the excitement came from the creator of the recipe: John Besh. I was a Food Network junkie when I lived in the US and definitely remember John Besh from The Next Iron Chef. He was one of my favorites, and while he did not win, he did make the final two. And now I got to try out one of his recipes! 

As it turns out, filé powder was at the first grocery store I went to while was visiting my parents. I'd probably just never paid attention in previous stores, and that's why I'd overlooked it. Don't look for it with the big brands, but rather look with the special seasonings. I found mine next to the Crazy Jane's Mixed Up Salt. You can also buy the same stuff I bought from Amazon! 

Once back in Germany, I went about looking for meats. John Besh calls for a whole chicken (easy), smoked sausage (well, we've got sausage here, but it's not quite the same thing), and andouille sausage (next to impossible to find). I decided to go with the flow and picked up smoked turkey to replace the smoked sausage (if you don't know it's turkey, you'd probably guess it's ham) and what was labeled "Polish sausage" for the andouille. I'm not a big fan of andouille, so I wasn't too disappointed not to have access to it. 

Anyone else reminded of making colored sand bottles in elementary school?

Adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh.

All shook up!
For the Basic Creole Spices:
2 tablespoons celery salt (I used whole celery seeds)
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (I was out of sweet, so I used a mixture of hot and smoked)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder (I had just under a tablespoon so I rounded it off with garlic salt)
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
½ teaspoon ground allspice

For the gumbo:
1 cup rendered chicken fat or canola oil (I used goose fat)
1 cup flour (the roux was so thin that I added about a half cup more)
2 large onions, diced
1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces (I opted for 6 pieces
2 tablespoons Creole spices (above)
2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
2 stalks celery, diced (I was out of celery. Oops.)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced (I used one red and one orange)
1 tomato, seeded and chopped (Mine was small so I used two)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked off
2 bay leaves
6 ounces Andouille sausage, chopped
2 cups sliced fresh okra (I used green beans instead)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (I completely forgot to use it!)
Salt (I did not need to add any)
Freshly ground black pepper
4–6 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice

No celery :(

Prepare homemade chicken stock, if using.

Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices: Mix together the celery salt, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and store.

Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices while you prepare the vegetables.

Make sure all of your vegetables 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.

In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck 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 in color, about 15 minutes. (Many people make it much darker than mine, I chose to go lighter.)

Left: roux just before adding onions
Right: roux after onions have finished cooking

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 until slightly browned, about 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. 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. (During the final simmer, I pulled the chicken out piece by pieces, shredded it, and added it back to the pot so we wouldn't have to work around hot bones while eating the gumbo.)

Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.

The term "stir" is used quite loosely here. Needless to say, I ended up having 
to get out an extra pot because this one was too small.

You might have noticed that I bolded the bit about skimming off the fat. You’ll want to do this. I skimmed at least a third of a cup of fat off, if not a whole half cup. Remember that you start with a full cup of fat at the beginning and then add skin-on chicken and sausage. There is plenty more than a cup of fat in there, so skim away! Or perhaps you didn’t want to be reminded? Either way, skim, skim, skim!

I loved the flavor of the filé powder and will continue to use it in my cooking. The directions say it can be used whenever you use salt and pepper, so I’m sure it will end up in many a dish. Do you have any favorite recipes using file powder?

Was the gumbo worth all the time and effort? YES! It was quite tasty and definitely hit the spot. The permeated the house so much that we were salivating long before it was ready. And the best smell during the whole cooking process? When the onions hit the roux. Oh my! Not surprisingly, the gumbo reminded me a bit of the Brunswick Stew I made last year, but the gumbo had a much thicker and more flavorful base. While gumbo is not so great for hot weather, I’ll keep this one on standby for the colder months.

It’s-perfect: 1 vote!
Make-again: 2 votes!

Gumbo, anyone?


  1. WOW so good that you could pick up the file' powder on your trip even better you liked the recipe so much it is a keeper I think well done on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. I am a big fan of spicy food when it is hot outside. Great looking gumbo.

  3. Your roux looks perfect! I miss doing the Daring Cooks and Bakers challenges. They are so fun. Work hindered me before and now this yeast-free diet has gotten me. We'll see where it takes me!


Thank you for leaving a comment! Comments allow me to see what you like and and encourage me to write more!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...