Gumbo, a Creole and Cajun soup that has many possible variations, has a rich history that blends the culinary traditions and techniques of three distinct groups: Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans.
Though there is some debate as to where exactly gumbo comes from, it is pretty easy to see that it is another classic culinary fusion.
The French have been using a roux to thicken soups and sauces since the 14th century, while Native tribes in Louisiana thickened their dishes with ground sassafras leaves — or filé, a classic gumbo ingredient — and African slaves who were traded in the area brought with them okra, which originated in Ethiopia. So all three of these groups were needed for gumbo to exist at all.
Early recipes called for a base of okra and tomatoes, which are still used in the recipe to this day. But over the years the Creole "holy trinity" of onion, celery, and green bell pepper were added to the soup base and various proteins such as chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, and crab were also added.
So while there is no "right" way to make gumbo, there are a couple rules you should be aware of.
No matter which style of gumbo you like best — the classic Creole version or the spicy, heavily seasoned Cajun version — your soup must always be thickened, most commonly with a roux or ground sassafras leaves, and it must always be served over rice.
Following these two simple rules and experimenting with different ingredients, you may just find the perfect gumbo for you — and hopefully have a lot of fun cooking along the way.
In this episode of Cooking with Fire, Josh and Chef Tom prepare Grilled Chicken & Andouille Gumbo.
- 2 lb bone-in chicken thighs
- Cajun seasoning (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cup yellow onion, small dice
- 1 cup green bell pepper, small dice
- 3/4 cup celery, small dice
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 lb andouille sausage, diced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- Cooked rice, for serving
- 2 tbsp smoked salt
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Preheat your grill for high heat (500ºF) direct grilling.
- Season your chicken thighs with the Cajun seasoning. Grill until lightly charred. Flip and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Remove from the grill. Let cool while preparing the gumbo.
- Preheat a 12” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. When the vegetable oil is hot, whisk in the flour. Whisk continuously until the flour is a dark red-brown color and smells nutty. You must keep whisking to prevent scorching. If you see black flecks in the roux, throw it away and start again.
- When you reach the desired color remove from the heat and stir in the onion, bell pepper, and celery and continue stirring. This will cool the roux and begin to cook the vegetables.
- Return the skillet to low heat after cooling for a minute. Cook the veggies over low heat until softened.
- Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 5-quart dutch oven. Turn the heat down and keep at a simmer. Add the roux/veggie mixture one spoonful at a time, whisking to incorporate before the next addition. When all of the roux is incorporated, add the andouille and garlic. Let the gumbo simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Debone the chicken and dice the meat into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the dutch oven and cook until warmed, about 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed.
- Serve the gumbo in a bowl over a scoop of rice.