Despite the fact that my husband adores gumbo and orders it frequently in restaurants, I had never made it myself until yesterday. I can’t imagine what I was waiting for.
I followed three different recipes simultaneously, all from James Villas’ Glory of Southern Cooking, a used copy of which we recently acquired. He includes one seafood gumbo thickened with roux and okra, one with boiled chicken, sausage, roux and file powder, and another with seared chicken and some remarkably overcooked seafood but no roux at all. I wanted to include chicken, andouille sausage and prawns, and I had okra but no file powder, so I sort of combined them all.
First of all, I fried chopped bacon and sliced raw andouille sausage together, then scooped them out into a bowl, leaving the spicy fat behind. Then I fried pieces of boneless chicken thigh meat in the pork fat, taking it out when just cooked through. When the chicken was cooled enough, I shredded it and put it aside with the bacon and sausage. Then I added a quarter cup of white flour to the fat to make a roux, and cooked that for a while on low heat. Chopped onion, celery and bell pepper were mixed into the roux, then a bag of frozen okra. After all that had cooked for a bit, I put in chopped parsley (and a few celery leaves, since I had them), dried thyme, a bay leaf, a quart of chicken stock, and two cans of tomatoes. I let that simmer for about an hour, then put the meaty bits back into the pot. After another 30-45 minutes, we put on rice to cook, then added a pound of raw peeled shrimp to the gumbo and let it simmer quietly until the rice was done. I served the gumbo ladled over heaps of hot rice.
It tasted exactly like gumbo, and a really, really good one, too. This may have just taken up permanent residence in our cooking repertoire.