We’ve made no bones about being from South Louisiana, a region known for its hospitality and slap-ya-mama cuisine. So, it’s only fitting we finally show you have to make something with bones, straight out of the Cajun cookbook. We present Boudreaux’s gumbo recipe, an aptly named Louisiana classic that allows your leftover holiday bird bones to serve a noble purpose once the main event is over. The best gumbos use homemade stock (we’ve detailed our method above the main gumbo recipe), which is arguably more important than the sacred roux you’ve surely been warned not to burn. Though making a gumbo can be a 3-day process — preparing the stock, cooking the gumbo, then feasting — we guarantee you it’s well worth the flavorful fais-do-do when all’s said and done. Save those bird bones and holiday vegetable trimmings; this year, you’re learning how to make a gumbo, Boudreaux-style.
SERVES 8–10 people PREP 1 hr COOK 3–4 hrs READY IN 4–5 hrs REST Overnight
- For the Homemade Stock (Optional):
- Carcass of 1 or more birds, including neck, skin, fat, etc. (anything except the liver)
- Trimmings of 4 carrots, cut in large chunks
- Trimmings of 3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
- Trimmings of 2 onions, skin on and cut in half
- Trimmings of a few garlic cloves, unpeeled and cut in half
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp peppercorn
- For the Gumbo:
- ¾ cup + 1 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil or rendered chicken fat, divided
- 2 links andouille or smoked sausage, cut into ½” slices
- 1 large, whole stewing chicken (skin-on, bone-in, cut into parts)
- 1½ cup flour
- 2 medium onions, diced
- Salt (to taste)
- 4 ribs celery, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 4–6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- Chicken or turkey stock (homemade or store-bought)
- Pepper (to taste)
- Cayenne (to taste)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1–2 lbs okra, sliced into ¼” rounds
- 4 green onions, sliced
- Long-grain rice
- Flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)
- Items You’ll Need:
- Large pot
- Heat Resistant Gloves
For the optional homemade stock
If made in a pressure cooker:
- Toss all ingredients in the pressure cooker and cover with water, minding the liquid-limit line within your cooker. Once the cooker has pressurized, set the timer for 45 minutes and let the stock do its thing.
- Turn off the heat and follow your manufacturer's instructions for depressurizing the cooker before refrigerating the stock overnight.
- The following day, skim any fat that has congealed on the top of the stock. Pour the stock into another container, making sure you leave behind the cloudy clumps settled on the bottom. From here, you can use, freeze, or place the stock back in the fridge.
If made in a stock pot:
- Place the bird carcass in the pot, then add enough water to cover the bird plus 2 extra inches.
- Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down so the liquid is barely bubbling. Let the stock simmer for 5–7 hours if possible, adding water as needed to keep the carcass submerged.
- During the last hour of cooking, add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Remove from heat once finished.
- Once the stock is cool enough to handle, strain it into a container and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.
- The next day, skim the fat and pour the stock into another container, being sure to separate it from the cloudy bits that will have settled at the bottom. Now you’re ready to use, freeze, or return to the fridge.
For the Gumbo
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil or rendered fat in a large pot over high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke in little wisps, brown the sausage slices in batches until crispy on one side. Once finished, place the browned sausages in a bowl and refrigerate.
- (SKIP THIS STEP IF USING A SMOKED BIRD.) In the same pot, brown the chicken on both sides, a couple of pieces at a time. Adjust your heat to prevent the gradoux (that’s the Cajun French word for those little bits that stick to the bottom of the pot) from burning. Place the browned chicken in the refrigerator with your sausage. Some people season the chicken before browning, but it’s not necessary.
- Next, you need to make a dark roux. You can either use the pot as is with the gradoux, or deglaze the pot with water and save it to add later. (The former method takes a bit more effort to prevent burning, while the latter approach requires you to completely dry the pot so the oil doesn’t splatter.) Add the remaining oil or rendered fat, wait for it to shimmer, then sprinkle in your flour. The key to making a roux is to not let it burn, so stir, stir, and stir some more. We can’t stress this enough: never stop stirring the roux.
- You can speed up the process by turning up the heat until the roux begins letting off wisps of smoke, then turning it down just a bit. The roux will go through stages of drying up and smoothing out, so just keep stirring, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot as you go.
- So, how dark should the roux be? Of the 3 most common shades below, we typically aim for the one in the center because a roux of this color will darken considerably when the onions are added. Just remember to keep stirring nonstop — the roux-making process takes about 45 minutes, and it may burn if you get distracted. If the mixture smells even slightly off, the roux went too far and you’ll have to start over with a clean pot.
- Once the roux has reached your desired shade, immediately stir in the onions. The mixture will seize for a moment as the water is pulled out and into the onions.
- Add a hefty pinch of salt and stir while you lower the heat to medium-high.
- The mixture will become much darker at this point, but you don’t want to brown the onions. As they lose their opacity, add the celery and green bell pepper and cook until softened.
- Add the minced garlic and stir for 15 seconds or so until you can just begin to smell it.
- Slowly stir in the stock and bring everything to a slow boil for about 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
- After 20 minutes have passed, add the bay leaves and chicken, and return to a low simmer for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes have passed, add the thyme and sausage, and return to a low simmer for another 30 minutes.
- When the chicken starts to fall off the bone and the tendons at the bottom of the legs begin to break down, remove the chicken pieces and place them on a cutting board to rest until cool enough to handle.
- While the chicken cools, add the okra to your pot. Once the chicken has cooled, debone and discard the skin and bones. Return the meat to the pot, bring back to a simmer, add the green onions, and remove from heat.
- Let the gumbo cool, then refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. This step is the difference between good gumbo and great gumbo — many in Cajun Country say it “gives the flavors time to dance.” Before reheating to serve, though, skim from the top of the gumbo any fat that has separated.
- Serve hot over cooked long-grain rice, then garnish with flat-leaf parsley. For best results, pair the gumbo with crusty, buttered French bread and a side of potato salad. Whatever you do, be sure to enjoy!
©2016 Oliver Boudreaux. All rights reserved. Used with permission.