This recipe comes from my good friend Kelly Pontiff. It is straight from the Bayou and one of the best gumbos I’ve ever eaten. While Louisiana is not known for its cool weather and traditionally they will eat rich spicy foods like this gumbo in the sweltering heat of summer, I really like it as a fall/ winter dish due to its rich, warming flavors. Kelly has a big family and generally cooks enough to feed a small third-world country so his recipe advice to me was “2 lbs of everything”. I cook and eat more moderate amounts, so I cut the recipe by ¼.
This recipe is not particularly anti-inflammatory (it has nightshades), but it is truly delicious, rich, comforting food. Like many stews, its richness comes from lots of vegetables that have been cooked down into a thick gravy, so it is healthier than its rich indulgent flavors would lead you to believe. It is easily adapted to gluten and dairy free. It is probably close to Keto (with only 4 Tbs GF flour in the entire pot, there is very little starch in each serving - assuming you don't serve it over rice).
3-4 Tbs butter, melted in medium skillet
3-4 Tbs of flour* (see notes below on flour and fat options)
½ lb chopped yellow onion*
1 bunch green onions (white bottoms, save green tops for later)
½ lb chopped celery*
½ lb chopped green bell pepper*
½ lb tomatoes (fresh, blanched and peeled, or canned stewed tomatoes, either one chopped)
3 cloves garlic, smashed, chopped or pressed
½ lb Kielbasa sausage, sliced into ½ in thick rounds (Real Andouille sausage will not survive the cooking time)
½ lb chicken (chopped into bite sized pieces, or, if you have it, pre-cooked and shredded will cook in much faster)
Salt and pepper to season.
Red pepper flakes to taste
Garnish: ½ cup chopped parsley and 1 bunch green onion tops
Veggies should be chopped fairly fine (about 2-3 times the size of a standard mince)
¼- ½ lb chopped okra
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp file
* Onion, celery and green bell pepper are the “trinity” of Cajun cooking, the combination gives dishes their signature flavor
**My Grandpapa (a Broussard – also very Cajun) always added a liberal dash of Worcestershire and Tabasco to everything (I swear EVERYTHING, with the exception of his morning grapefruit and his evening ice cream). These flavors go well in this and are a traditional addition. I always add them and think of Granddad, mumbling in French as he prepared his food.
Cook the roux (see notes below)
Heat butter / oil in thick bottomed skillet to medium, when shimmering, slowly add an equal amount of flour. Use a flat-bottomed wooden spoon or metal spoon to stir fairly constantly (It gets too hot for plastic or silicone utensils. Never walk away from your roux!)
Cook slowly in skillet until the flour has turned the color of milk chocolate*, and is just on the verge of smelling burned. Remove from heat and keep stirring until the browning stops or it will burn. Set aside to cool. If there is excess oil, skim off before adding it below.
*Gluten free flours will NOT get this dark brown - aim for a dark tan with most GF flours
Cooking the dish
In a large Dutch oven, braise the sausage on medium high until almost burned. Then add (bay leaves, file), onion (green and regular), celery, tomatoes and bell pepper, cover (so you don’t lose water) and cook on medium to release water and deglaze sausage drippings from pan. Once the veggies have released their water, stir in the roux. The water will create a thick gravy from the roux base. Add a bit of stock and/or white wine for liquid if necessary. Cook at a simmer for several hours, stir periodically. Add garlic, chicken, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, (and okra). Cook for at least one hour more, until chicken is very tender, veggies should have mostly disintegrated. Add parsley, green onion tops and any additional salt, pepper, Worcestershire, Tabasco, or red pepper flakes just before serving.
Serve over rice (or other whole grain/ grain substitute) with greens on the side (collards are traditional). I usually skip the grain (who wants to clean another pot?) and just eat it like stew.
Important notes on Roux
Most cooks use all-purpose wheat flour, and Kelly was very clear that this was the only type of flour that will work for a Roux. It is true that making a silky, darkly toasted roux is much easier with all-purpose flour- however, I am gluten free and have experimented with this quite a bit.
It does not seem possible to make a good roux from whole grain flours (whole wheat, or brown rice). It is possible to make a pretty darn good roux with gluten-free (and especially grain-free) flours, if you take note of these differences.
They brown (and burn) much faster than wheat flour
Less cooking time, but you have to be careful
They are not usually as silky, but they often thicken better even when toasted/ browned (wheat flour loses some of its thickening the darker it gets).
I recommend a gluten free flour that combines very finely milled sweet rice flour (aka mochi flour) with other flours such as potato starch, cassava flour, or plantain flour. (King Arthur GF Multi-purpose flour works well).
Cassava flour can toast deeply, and can be used if a dark roux is desired
Plantain flour turns bitter if it goes beyond a light toast
Rice and potato flours can be browned/toasted, but also burn quickly
As an alternative to making a proper “fat and flour” roux, a shortcut is to create a “thickener slurry”. You would add this instead of the roux at the same point in cooking. These can be made with arrowroot powder, kudzu powder, tapioca starch or corn starch. I have not needed these, and in this dish the toasted flavor from the roux is central to the flavor of the dish.
You can make a roux using any type of fat, but if you want browning/toasting butter is the first choice. The milk proteins in butter will turn brown (and add to the toasty flavor) during the cooking process and other oils will not. If you use an oil other than butter, you won’t have color change to guide you, and you will have to time the cooking (about 5 min). You want to cook the roux until it loses its raw flavor.
Generally you will want a 1:1 ratio of fat to flour. This may need to be adjusted if your flour mix includes other thickeners like arrowroot, cornstarch, or kudzu. What is important is that the flour/fat mix is thin enough when cooking the roux to retain a somewhat liquid consistency so that it will cook evenly. If in doubt, err on the side of too much oil (you can skim it off after the roux has cooled and before you add it to the dish).