Inspired by some limp celery I searched the freezer in search of a half turkey breast smoked a month or so back.
I had vac packed it so it has frozen well. Now it has defrosted the textrure is solid. it slices like ham – it had been brined- so little suprise.
I have a kielbasa in the fridge as well as half a green pepper.
This can only go one way – GUMBO.
Gumbo is a perfect mix up of whats available. The name has different etymological interpretations but in essence a gumbo is a dish based on a roux with a mix of ingredients that are locally available.
Having tried Gumbo in its native Louisiana it is pretty obvious there are many variations depending upon the region, the family, the restaurant, the seasons etc.
Its important to define we are talking authentic Cajun Gumbo here not Creole gumbo or “new orleans” gumbo. This is a rich dark thick soupy stew.
The roux is the key. Based on the techniques of classic french sauces this flour and fat combination provides a thickening and richness to the sauce. Exactly the same here althought the roux is cooked for longer and much darker to provide its own flavour.
Herein lies the art of the gumbo
The Gumbo at Cafe Vermillionville in Lafayette is the colour of dark coffee chocolate brown and just as rich.
My favorite combination is chicken and sausage and a great recipe is in Southern living
For my personal take on gumbo i use my own smoked chicken or turkey and a smoked sausage – A soft Kielbasa is about as close as I can get to Andouille.
The holy trinity of celery, green bell pepper and white onionall chopped into fine dice.
Do this before making the roux – the roux is your focus here.
Get a heavy bottomed pot – a cast iron le Creuset type pot is ideal although a “black pot” is the authentic article.
Use a half cup of a bland oil – I use a light rapeseed but sunflower or vegatable oil is fine. use an equivalent amout opf plain flour.
Stir together into a uniform consistency. It should be almos liquid not a paste. add a bit more oil if you need to.
Heat on a medium heat and stir constantly. As the oil cooks out the starch in the flour the colour will change. This requires patience and attention. if you burn the flour it is ruined and will taste bitter and horrible. You are looking for a dark roux and your effort will reward that but you may need nerves of steel to know when to stop the change.
As a guide the following sequence may help.
The colour goes through straw, to peanut butter to brick red to milk chocolate to dark chocolate.
I tend to stop it at milk chocolate colour as it turns darker when the trinity is added. A word of warning – the roux at this stage is extremely hot. It looks like a nice sauce but do not be tempted to taste it!!
When its reached the desired colour add the trinity and stir vigorously. The vegatables will cook in the roux and sweeten.
I add the spices here. Simple teaspoon of garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of oregano. a teaspoon or two of cajun spice pwder will also work ( I like original Slap ya mama) As they cook over a few minutes add small amouts of hot water or stock which will halt the roux cooking and also create a thick rich sauce.
The roux will take a lot of liquid and you will be cooking it down so you can make it thinner than you will want to end up with.
Add your meat at this stage. If you are using raw meat pre fry it. Here I add the smoked turkey and the kielbasa.
Get it to a simmer and let it do its thing for a hour or so.
Keep an eye on it so it doesnt stick to the bottom and burn.
You should have a lovely mahogany brown gumbo ready for a small scoop of plain boiled white rice and a few finely chopped spring onion tops.