The blues is like the roux in a gumbo. People always ask me if jazz always has blues in it. I say, if it sounds good it does.Wynton Marsalis
The aromas dancing their way from the kitchen are like a serenade to the ears of a musician. Beautiful. Melodic. Harmonic. Exciting. And inviting, which is just what a Sunday dinner should be.
Just as in music, the world of gumbo is vast and varied. Like a beautiful song, gumbo conjures up mulitple levels of flavors, aromas and emotions, that crescendo into one tantalizing bite after another.
Two things ubiquitous about Louisiana are jazz music and gumbo. Both are a source of pride and are cultural symbols. A visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a sample taste of each.
Gumbo, in Louisiana, is found in various forms tastes, textures, and ingredients. You might find gumbo containing an array of fresh seafood, with chicken and sausage, or all of the above. Everyone makes it their own way, just like the dialect on their lips, and that’s perfectly okay. Two things, however, that gumbo always contains are: rice and a thickening agent of some sort.
Historically, there have been three main sources for how gumbo is thickened — okra, file’ powder or a roux.
- Either dried or fresh, okra gives gumbo a very distinct flavor. In Louisiana, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a gumbo that doesn’t incorporate okra into its recipe.
- File’ powder is dried crushed leaves of Sassafras, a plant native to the Southeast. Historically, the use of file’ powder was the way gumbo was made centuries ago, and the purists still source it for their gumbo.
- A roux is a French term. A roux is the base for many sauces made by combining flour with some sort of fat.
I share the opinion of a lot of chefs that the “secret sauce” which ultimately produces a terrific gumbo is mastering the art of the “roux,” which both thickens the broth and adds a nutty flavor that complements the meat in the dish.
For the roux in this dish, I use flour and a more neutral oil like peanut or canola oil. Be sure to get your pot hot, add the flour and oil, and stir until it turns the color you wish, keeping in mind that the darker the color of the roux, the more flavor you will have in your gumbo.
There’s no rule for what meats or seafoods you put into your gumbo. For my recipe, I’m using predominantly chicken thighs and a spicier andouille sausage. Between the spiciness of the andouille and some additional seasoning incorporated throughout, my version of gumbo that packs a lot of terrific flavor. Just as it should be.
This is a recipe that you’ll enjoy planning and preparing in the morning, allowing all of the ingredients to harmonize in the pot before serving. As the flavors waft their way through your home, I guarantee that everyone will be dancing around the pot before you’re ready to serve this Louisiana dish. Put on some of Wynton’s jazz music and watch the marriage of aromas and sounds fill the air inviting your guests to another lovely Sunday dinner of great food, companionship and sharing.