For Amy…

I’m a Mississippi girl married to a Louisiana man, and in our wedding vows, he made sure to include the disclaimer “if she learns to make a proper gumbo”. So I knew what I was getting into right up front. I set to work early on learning how my mother-in-law made her delicious gumbo, and ensured my position as Mrs. King Pen till death do us part. Here is a casual rendition of my recipe.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo:

cooked chicken
sliced sausage
bell pepper
okra (optional– I don’t like it.)

The most important thing about making a gumbo is having all the food prepared before you start cooking. Once you start on the roux, you can’t stop! Gumbo is actually very easy to make once you’ve mastered the roux. It pretty much cooks itself. I usually make it when I have leftover chicken from something else. I’ve used all kinds of baked chicken- lemon pepper, rotiserrie, whatever. It’s all good! I shread it, not cut it, because that texture just works better in a soup. I also grill/saute my sausage, though you don’t have to, and I slice them very thin. Chop onions, bellpepper, and celery – I end up having about a cup and a half all told. Leave okra whole.


For the roux, mix one part oil to one part flour. I do about 3/4 cup of each, and that makes enough for company or leftovers. Put it in a large pot over medium high heat, and start stirring. Don’t stop! You want to get the roux as close to chocolate brown as you can without burning it. A burned roux ruins gumbo. But the darker it is, the better the flavor, it has sort a nutty smell/taste. Yummy. So just when you think you can’t get it any darker, about 4/5 minutes of cooking- stir in the veggies. That cools the roux down, but lets it cook just one minute longer, and infuses it with flavor. Stir veggies and roux for just a minute, then add 7/8 cups of hot water- enough to fill your pot a little over halfway. Then add your chicken, sausage, cajun seasons, salt and pepper to taste. If you prefer, add your okra. I don’t do that, but some people swear by it. So, bring to a boil, then lower heat and let it simmer. The longer the better, but at least 30-45 minutes, especially if you didn’t precook the sausage. I like my gumbo on the stove for a few hours, because it smells wonderful, thickens the stock, and tenderizes the meat. Plus it gives me a chance to skim off any excess oil that comes out of the sausage, for a leaner meal. Serve over rice, and with fil, if you prefer.

Don’t be intimidated! Try it! Gumbo is great because you just use what you’ve got. Shrimp, pork, whatever. You can find a recipe for almost any combination of meats, and veggies, too. It’s a great, hearty dish for your recipe book.