The Gumbo conversation is a long and detailed one. It is a labor of love and dedication. It takes a good amount of time, and better the day after it is made. It enfolds powerful symbology. It reflects so much love and triumph. It showcases resilience and community. It also shows how beautiful things work out when we all pitch in and work together.
I did not learn to make gumbo from my relations. But from a dear friend and Mentor Mrs Armilla C. Thomas, originally from Arkansas. I worked at the front desk with her in the 90s. She was regal, brilliant, and formidable in the best ways. She was one of the first black women to work at the front desk of a Las Vegas hotel. She moved to Las Vegas with her husband in the 60s to open a funeral home that catered to the Black Community. She had the reputation for no nonsense and for leading by example. We became close quickly on the job when I was in training. She reminded me so very much of the iron spined Grande Dames close to my heart. How could I not add her to it?
That June Emeril Lagasse’s spot opened in a casino down the street. Miss Armilla, my good friend Gina, and I went to check it out. It was exceptional. Miss Armilla, Gina and I feasted and giggled through the Chef’s selections and had ourselves a time! It was at this meal that I confessed I did not make Gumbo. Miss Armilla insisted that the next off day we shared would be spent in her kitchen so she could make sure I learned the correct way. I told her I wanted to make one so good that my Granpa would be able to taste Louisiana in every spoonful. His birthday was in August and I thought it would be great to present him a pot. We made two huge cauldrons, one with seafood and one with just chicken and sausages. It is here I also learned the golden rule of feasting on Gumbo the day after it is made. Miss Armilla told me that the layers needed time to mingle so each ingredient could give its truth to the pot. The gumbo was a Success! It was deep, nuanced, and really lush. I was so very proud when I took the first pot over my Grandparents house I can not explain. It was a triumph!
I promise I have included every trick and tip below to embolden you as I was so blessed to be from Miss Armilla’s tutelage. If you follow the steps. Read the recipe through before you start. Organize yourself before you start and plan accordingly you will have a party dish worthy of the best people you know.
This is not a difficult recipe, but it takes focus and planning. Now sit back and read this through, make a list, call the butcher, and hot the green grocer!
“laissez les bon temps rouler” (pronounced ‘Lay-say le bon tom roo-lay’) … Let the good times roll!!!
Luxe Game & Sausage Gumbo
FOR THE STOCK
- 5 pounds Chicken (you can use all dark, but not all white meat)
- 2+1/2 pounds Game birds
- 1 Onion unpeeled, quartered
- 1 Rib of celery cut into 2-inch lengths
- 5 Cloves garlic smashed
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
FOR THE ROUX AND GUMBO
- 1 cup Rice bran or vegetable oil
- 1 cup Flour
- 3 Large white onions chopped
- 6 Ribs of celery finely chopped
- 3 Green bell peppers finely chopped
- 3 Red bell peppers finely chopped
- 3 Poblano peppers finely chopped
- 9 Cloves garlic minced
- Cayenne to taste
- Creole Seasoning
- 3 Bay leaves
- 2 pounds Andouille sausage halved lengthwise, then cut cross-wise into half moons
- 1 + 1/2 pounds Chaurice sausage halved lengthwise, then cut cross-wise into half moons
- 1 pound Kielbasa or Kransky sausage halved lengthwise, then cut cross-wise into half moons
- 1 bunch Scallions thinly sliced
- 1 bunch Fresh parsley chopped
- Salt to taste
- Cooked white rice, for serving
- French bread, crackers, or Cajun Potato Salad
- File, for serving
- Place chicken and game birds on a sheet tray. Season with garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
- Roast at 200 C/400 C for 1 hour. When done. Let cool. When cool remove meat and set aside for later addition.
- Place bones, onion, celery, smashed garlic, bay leaves, and liquid to cover by 1 inch in a large stockpot. Add salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Add water if necessary, to keep bones submerged in liquid.)
- Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
- While stock is simmering, make roux: In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; whisk in flour.Cook, stirring constantly, reaching every portion of the bottom of the pot, until roux begins to take on some color. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and continue cooking and stirring constantly until roux reaches the color of brick or dark chocolate. (The timing here will vary depending on your cooktop as well as the pan you are using; the most important thing is to not let any portion of the roux scorch, and to stir constantly until you've reached the desired color. But, expect to be here for an hour.)
- Add the chopped onions, celery, peppers and minced garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, 5 to 7 minutes.If stock has cooled by this time, add it to roux-vegetable mixture along with Creole seasoning, cayenne, and bay leaves, and stir to combine. (If stock has not cooled by the time vegetables have softened, set aside to cool; you should always add a hot stock to a cool roux or vice versa.)
- Once roux and stock are combined, bring to a gentle simmer. Taste and season. Continue to simmer until sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 2hours, skimming any foam or excess oil that comes to the surface.
- While simmering, sauté sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Add sausage to gumbo. Taste gumbo and season again. Simmer for 2 hours.
- After simmering, add roasted birds, chopped scallions, and parsley to gumbo. Stir well and continue to simmer for 30 minutes longer. Adjust thickness if necessary, then season with salt and cayenne to taste.
- Then allow to come to room temperature and refrigerate. The next day bring out of fridge, scrape off the now cold fat and save in a jar for cooking next level stir fry, jambalaya, etouffee, or a curry. The fat is a bonus reward for making this so well. Ladle the amount you are serving into a pot and warm gently. Put your wine in to chill, or decant your red. Put your rice on. Set the table. Butter your French bread or set out your crackers (or Cajun potato salad).
- Serve gumbo ladled over hot white rice in large shallow bowls, with hot sauce and file at the table for guests to use to their liking.