It snowed in Virginia last week! To those of you that frequently get snow, this is no big deal, but to those of you that live in warmer climates, you can probably understand my excitement. A week or so before it snowed, I literally jumped out of bed when I thought I saw snow through the window only to find out it was hail. What a letdown. When I saw the first flakes start falling last week, I was like a giddy little girl. Remember, I spent most of my life in Alabama, so snow is still quite novel to me.
Cold weather requires comfort food. We made our standard comfort food meal of three cheese macaroni and cheese one night, but thankfully we had several nights with snow and got to make plenty of snowy weather dinners. We made this gumbo before the snow came, when it was just bitterly cold, but we froze a few servings to have later. Let me tell you, having gumbo already made and just having to reheat it and not attempt to drive in the snowy, icy craziness was awesome. I’m telling you that so you won’t be tempted to halve the recipe. Sure it makes a lot of servings, but you never know when you’ll be thankful to have a homemade dinner waiting for you in the freezer.
This gumbo has been in our winter meal rotation for almost three years now, and I crave it as soon as the weather turns cold. Filled with Cajun spices, andouille sausage and tender chicken, this is a stick-to-your-ribs meal if there ever was one. It takes some time to prep, but the end result is so, so worth it. This is one of those meals I really love the process of making, too. The sound of the searing chicken. The roux that changes from light to dark. The way the kitchen smells as the simmering gumbo fills the air.
:Cue music for “My Favorite Things”:
- YIELD: 12 servings
1 teaspoon black pepper
½-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
For the gumbo:
6 ounces bacon, diced
2 pounds chicken legs or thighs, bone-in and skin-on
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
½ cup peanut or other vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
½-1 pound okra, sliced into discs (frozen is fine)
3 green onions, chopped, plus more for serving
In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients for the spice mixture. Set aside.
Cook the bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. Cook until browned and crisp, then use a slotted spoon to remove and set aside. Place the chicken skin-side down in the bacon fat. Cook for 4-5 minutes without moving, then flip and continue browning on the other side. Remove the chicken to a large plate. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until browned. Place on the plate with the chicken and set aside.
You should have about half a cup of fat in your pot. If not, add peanut or vegetable oil to bring amount to ½ cup. Let the oil heat for a minute or two, then whisk in the flour. Continue whisking constantly for the first few minutes, then frequently thereafter. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking the roux until it becomes very dark, like the color of coffee with a splash of cream mixed in. To get an idea, here’s a little Instagram video I made of the process.
While the roux is cooking, bring the broth and water to a boil in separate medium pot. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer.
Once the roux is as dark, stir in the peppers, celery and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste.
Using a large ladle, gradually stir in the broth/water mixture. It may sizzle and seize, and that’s okay. Continue adding ladlefuls of the broth mixture, stirring constantly and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. You may not need all of the liquid, but you want to add enough that it’s slightly thinner than you want the finished product since the gumbo cooks for several hours. Stir in half the Cajun spice mixture and reduce heat to medium-low.
Add the chicken pieces back to the pot. Simmer for about 90 minutes, or until the meat falls easily away from the bones. Taste and add more Cajun seasoning if you like. Remove the chicken and allow to cool slightly. Return the sausage to the pot, and stir in the okra. Shred or chop the chicken meat, discarding the bones and skin (or reserving for another use). Add the chicken back to the gumbo and continue cooking another hour or more, until the gumbo has reached your desired consistency.
Just before serving, stir in the green onions and bacon. Serve over rice. (My favorite method for cooking rice for recipes like this one ishere.) Top with additional green onions, if desired.