Gumbo is quintessential everything: quintessential Cajun cooking, quintessential comfort food, the quintessential dish for a big gathering where everyone feels like family. Gumbo is full of simple, hearty ingredients, and it's concept is equally understated - transform a few basic ingredients into something transcendental - yet at the same time it is, as Zach says, "a bit fussy, asking for constant vigilance." That said, it's also very forgiving - you can always add a bit more broth, a bit more roux, and guarantee that everyone around your table will will be soothed into a state of perfect bonhomie, merriment, and delight.
Gumbo is what you fix when you want to celebrate, when you want to invite everyone in the neighborhood - and when, no matter where in the world you might be, you want to feel like you're coming home.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR 2 lb. tempeh salt and pepper to taste hot sauce to taste 1 cup dry instant roux mix 6 to 8 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock 1/4 cup canola oil 1 lb. andouille sausage OR 1 lb. "sausage" style vegetarian soy crumbles 3 onions, chopped 1 bell pepper, chopped 1 to 2 T file powder
4 cups white or brown rice, cooked Potato Salad (recipe below)
~ Season the chicken or tempeh to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce ~ Dissolve the dry instant roux in 2 cups of the chicken or vegetable stock. ~ In a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat, brown the chicken or tempeh, and the andouille or vegetarian "sausage" crumbles - just until browned, not until cooked all the way through. ~ Remove the chicken or tempeh and the andouille or "sausage" crumbles from the dutch oven, and set aside. ~ Add the onions and bell pepper to the pot, and saute until the onions are wilted and translucent. ~ Return the chicken and sausage to the pot, and slowly add the roux and stock mixture, as well as 4 additional cups stock, stirring constantly throughout the additions. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally - until the chicken is so tender that it shreds easily with a fork, or until the tempeh is approaching mushiness. Add 2 additional cups of stock if necessary during this time, depending on how much volume is lost - you want gumbo to be quite brothy, more like a soup than a stew. ~ Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. At this point, you can cover the gumbo and leave it on low heat until whenever you're ready to serve - again, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if necessary. ~ Right before serving, remove from the heat and stir in 1 T file powder. Taste, and, if desired, add an additional 1 T file. ~ To serve, scoop rice into a bowl, top with a ladle or two of gumbo, and a bit scoop of potato salad. Yep, potato salad - the combination of cold, creamy potato salad, and warm, fiery-spicy gumbo, is positively one of the most scrumptious things this planet has to offer!
Classic Southern Potato Salad 4 lbs potatoes, cooked, skins left on, and cut into 2" square chunks (I cook mine in the microwave - it's amazingly speedy) 6 eggs, hard boiled and quartered 1 to 1 1/2 cups light mayo (depending on how moist you like your potato salad) 1/2 cup mustard salt to taste Cajun seasoning to taste ~ In a large bowl, combine the cooked potatoes, hard boiled eggs, mayo, and mustard. Coarsely mash with a potato masher until all the ingredients are well combined and the texture almost resembles smashed potatoes. ~ Season to taste with salt and Cajun seasoning... Mmmmm, goooood!