Thursday, February 04, 2010

Who Dat? Super Bowl Gumbo

Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that I’m rooting for the New Orleans Saints to win this Sunday’s Super Bowl. Not that I have anything against the Colts and Peyton Manning (whom if you haven’t heard already is from New Orleans), but I like my sports laced with Behind-the-Music-like back stories.

So I’m rooting for the Saints, which has not gone to the Super Bowl in their entire franchise history. For the city that continues to look for a silver lining since Katrina. And for the quarterback Drew Brees whose shorter-than-normal height for a quarterback has odds makers leaning toward the more experienced Manning.

Forget the chicken wings and nacho platters, because this year’s Super Bowl party can be as simple as cooking up a nice pot of Louisiana gumbo in honor of the Saints.

I love gumbo but never made an authentic version before, so I went looking for a recipe. I looked no further than Chef John Besh and his new “My New Orleans” cookbook, which was released last year. Besh has several restaurants in New Orleans and have appeared on the Food Network, so I knew next to Emeril his recipe would be straight from the heart of Nawlins’.

The following recipe, which Besh calls “Drew’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo” because he apparently got it from a friend, was pretty easy to make although a bit time-consuming. The biggest challenge was finding all the ingredients since I don’t do a lot of Louisiana-style cooking. For one, I had to hunt down okra, the West African vegetable that gave the French the inspiration for the dish. I typically find okra at the Asian markets.

Then I had to find Creole seasoning, which actually isn’t a type of seasoning but is a combination of spices. The closest I could find in my market was Cajun seasoning, which had most of the spices of Creole seasoning (chili, cayenne, paprika) but lacked sweet basil, which I bought separately and just added in.

An important part of making the gumbo authentic is creating the dark roux at the beginning. This resulted in a very rich-looking gumbo. In the end, I enjoyed the flavors of the spices and sausages in the gumbo. The only thing I might add next time is some shrimp or crawfish just to have another dimension in taste. Otherwise, make a big pot of this gumbo and serve it up in bowls and you’ll be fired up for a Saints victory!

Drew’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
(excerpted from “My New Orleans: the Cookbook” by John Besh)

(Serves 10-12)
1 cup rendered chicken fat or canola oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, diced
1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons Creole Spices
2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped

2 cups sliced fresh okra
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Freshly ground black pepper
Filé powder
4–6 cups cooked white rice

1. Make a roux by heating the chicken fat or oil in a large cast-iron or heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

2. Season the chicken with Creole Spices. Add the chicken to the pot, raise heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook, 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 for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

4. Add the andouille, okra, and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé at the table.


Tom Canaday said...

The richest, most authentic roux is made with lard. The finest lard in America is produced from Mangalitsa pigs by Wooly Pigs and is available in the S.F. Bay Area. If you want to get some, visit the Wooly Pigs website ( and look for San Francisco purchasing info or contact me directly. Geaux Saints!

Hungry Dog said...

This sounds great! I like gumbo though have never made it. Brenda's in SF does a good one. ANyhow, thank you for posting the recipe, if I can motivate to buy all the ingredients I just might make it this weekend!

Single Guy Ben said...

Tom, I'm sure anything made from lard will taste good, but I'm just too much of a cholesterol freak to do that. I ended up using canola oil, and not even the rendered chicken fat in the recipe.

Hungry Dog, I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I thought my gumbo turned out better than Brenda's! Brenda's gumbo has the right dark color but I felt it lacked body. With so many different flavors from the two sausages and the spices, this gumbo recipe turned out really nice with lots of dimensions, I felt. So yeah, restaurant-quality at home! (I did half the recipe, but if you have a big crew this Sunday you might want to make the whole thing.)

Velva said...

Holy cow! That gumbo looks awesome. Perfect for a New Orleans Saints win in the Superbowl. I want the Saints to win exactly for the same reason that you do-

Tom Canaday said...

Ben, you might want to revisit the issue of lard and cholesterol, and in particular Mangalitsa lard which is more monounsaturated and higher in oleic acid than ordinary lard. Lard is making a big comeback in part because it is a heart-healthy fat.

figtree said...

Oh my! Who wants wings when you could have this???YUM

Cookie said...

Well, if you're rooting for the Saints, you better be making some Hurricanes during the game!

egg to the apples said...

Looks like you made a great, dark roux, the gumbo looks great!

Single Guy Ben said...

Cookie, that's a fantastic suggestion! Hurricanes and gumbo! Done deal!

Carolyn Jung said...

A perfect dish for the occasion. But where are the pralines for dessert? ;)

Mrs. L said...

Yes, also rooting for the Saints for basically the same reasons! Just bringing Deviled Eggs to the party but might have to make this gumbo for dinner next week. Also makes me want to go buy Besh's book. Enabler Ben should be your new name.

Unknown said...

I found your blog because of the beef and pickled mustard greens recipe, and then saw the link for this page. Glad you helped root the Saints on to victory! I'm a native New Yorker, but my husband grew up in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and his father bought season tickets at the Saints' birth, when they played at Tulane Stadium. We actually went down to New Orleans to watch the game there, and it was the best time ever, better than my Yankees winning the World Series. I've never before experienced anything like the outpouring of joy and excitement and tears and love for one's fellow fans that was in the air all weekend long. This gumbo sounds very authentic and delicious; Chef John Besh is awesome. My husband makes a mean gumbo, and he always browns the andouille separately for more flavor before adding it to the pot. We also like to use a homemade duck stock, maybe combined with some fish stock if we have it in the freezer. Besides shrimp, you could also throw in some chopped blue crabs or add lump crab meat to the serving bowls. Geaux Saints!!!