When I get a hankering to cook up a big ‘ol batch of chicken sausage gumbo, I start by leafing through vintage cookbooks. The ones published years ago by Junior Leagues and other women’s associations are particularly a draw because they offer a window into a history that wasn’t all that long ago. They are quirky in their simplicity. So many times, these recipes don’t detail ingredient amounts or how to prep them. These dishes were created in another day, almost another world.
I can imagine ladies of the South, so gracious, yet ofttimes clueless as to how their maids cooked dinner. The recipes with greater detail serve up the possible conclusion that the recipe contributor was also doing the cooking. And yet there are others, the Mrs. So-and-So, who listed ingredients without the necessary how-to specifics.
So how did those Southern ladies cook up a Chicken Sausage Oyster Gumbo? Paging through coil-bound books, I feel that I am in their kitchens alongside them, peering over their shoulders. I watch as they laboriously stir (and stir) the roux until it becomes Hershey chocolate brown (one helpful description). While reading other recipes, I scratch my head, distressed that I won’t get the gumbo right because the instructions are so oblique.
This particular Chicken Sausage Gumbo hails from three sources: Talk About Good!, Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette (1969); Recipes and Reminisces of New Orleans (1971); and finally, a recipe from Chef Paul Prudhomme through the vehicle of the New York Times. That one provides me with a basic skeleton, of sorts, to make sure I don’t veer off track into the swamp — the one where the alligators bellow.
I consider these old recipes an amalgamation of knowledge. I pull from one, pluck a tidbit from another. I refer to contemporary recipes to follow the theme and make sure I am executing the concept correctly.
From there, I play and adapt. I encourage you to do the same. Taste and enjoy!
Chicken, Sausage, and Oyster Gumbo Recipe
- 5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, mix of breasts and thighs
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp cayenne (red) pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp filé powder
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
- 2 medium sweet onions, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 green pepper, ribs removed, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow peppers, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 celery stalks, ends trimmed, finely diced
- 13 cups low-salt chicken broth or stock
- 3/4 pound andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 5-ounce containers raw oysters with juice (one whole pint)
- 1/2 bunch green onions and tops
Dry chicken pieces and place on baking sheets or plates.
Mix together pepper, mustard, cayenne, paprika, and filé powder. Sprinkle over chicken pieces, reserving any remaining spice mixture.
Blend reserved spice mixture in a small bowl with flour.
Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off excess. Reserve remaining flour.
Heat broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Lower to simmer and keep warm.
Heat a large Dutch oven on medium and add the oil. When the oil is smoking, add chicken pieces in batches, skin side down and cook about three minutes, or until skin is golden brown. Turn and cook three minutes on other side. Remove chicken and drain on paper towel-lined plates.
NOTE: be very careful as you add chicken batches to oil in pot. It is very hot and can splatter and burn you.
Pour off all fat except for one cup. Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers and add reserved flour. Stir continuously with a wire whisk until it turns a dark, chocolate brown to create the roux. There should be a popcorn aroma, but not a burnt popcorn smell. Be careful and keep a continual eye on the process.
Add onion, peppers, and celery to the roux. Stir well to incorporate. Turn to very low heat.
Add broth in cupfuls to roux, whisking to incorporate. Continue adding broth to roux in cupfuls, stirring constantly.
Add andouille sausage to pot, stirring into mixture. Cook on medium, covered, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Return chicken pieces to the pot along with any collected juices. Add bay leaves. Simmer partially covered on low, stirring occasionally, for one hour.
Remove chicken from pot. Shred chicken and discard bones. Add chicken back to pot and return pot to simmer. Cook until chicken is very tender and gumbo coats the back of a spoon.
Add oysters and green onions to pot and cook until oysters curl, about 15 minutes.
Serve with steamed white rice.
The gumbo should have a thick consistency, but individuals may add filé powder, if desired.