Monday, April 11, 2011

Whaddya mean Mardi Gras was a month ago??

So today I attempted Gumbo. First, I must make a HUGE disclaimer: I have never, EVER made Gumbo or Jambalaya, nor have I ever had it that I can remember. So this was a pretty big thing for me…

It all started out with some Cajun seasoning we got from Jesse’s mom from when she and her husband went to New Orleans for their one year anniversary. I looked at it and was like, we should make something Cajun. I figured jambalaya or gumbo could be made in a crock pot, so easy enough, right? I should have known better.

Jesse decided on gumbo, so I set around to searching for some easy-sounding recipes. And while I did that, I started wondering, “What is the difference between gumbo and jambalaya?” So I then decided to look that up. Here’s what I found: Apparently one difference is that gumbo is a soup made with okra and a roux, and jambalaya is not really a soup, and made with rice. I also found how they got their names, and being a French major, I kinda had to slap my hand to my forehead on jambalaya. So gumbo apparently means okra in one of the native African languages slaves spoke back in the day. Maybe Yoruba, I can’t remember. Jambalaya, is ham with rice. I.e. Jambon = ham + à la = of the + ya = rice (once again in a native African language). So Jambalaya actually used to be made with ham, although sausage is pork and ham is pork, so kinda the same (well, sausage usually has pork in it….who knows what else :P). Ok, there’s your linguistics lesson for the day. Sometimes I wish I had also majored in linguistics, but I didn’t realize that until my final semester of college, and I wasn’t going to stay any longer, no matter how much I loved Athens and UGA.

Anyways, back to the topic: Gumbo. I found a recipe for chicken and sausage gumbo that was in the crock pot. The only worrying thing about it was that I would have to make a roux ahead of time. I’ve never made one. I’ve watch both Jesse and my mother make one. I know the basics of making one (stirring nonstop really). But I’ve never made one… I was really hoping I could find some of this at the store. I saw it on a Cajun cooking site where some people from Louisiana said that it’s as good as their Grandma’s. Alas, Ingles doesn’t carry that, so I would have to face my fears.

Once I got home from the store, I then set up a playlist. I have a total of two Cajun songs à grâce de my French classes. I thought I would need at least two more, so I found two from iTunes that didn’t sound entirely the same and bought those. This brought my Cajun playlist to a grand total of 4 songs – one of which is a Christmas song.

  • Michel Fugain, Les Acadiens
  • Paul Daigle & Robert Elkins, La Veille de Noel
  • The Cajun Playboys, T’en a Eu, T’en Au Vas
  • Savoy-Ducet Cajun Band, Port Arthur Blues

So, with my playlist cued up, I was ready to go. Here is the recipe I used, mostly pulled from a mix of websites, but the majority from this one:

Some of you who know me, may be wondering, “Wait a minute, Sarah doesn’t eat sausage. What is going on here?” And you would be correct. I am one of the pickiest eaters you will ever meet. A sales rep I used to work with called me Sally, as in When Harry Met Sally. I’m honestly not that bad, and I have improved over the years from when Mac & Cheese and Peanut Butter & Jelly were the only things I ate (I’ll take partial credit here ;)). But yeah, still picky over here… And sausage is one thing I really don’t like, and not even because it’s pork. I don’t like the flavor. So turkey or chicken sausage is out. Poor Jesse. I think he was really hoping I would cook it with sausage and just pick it out of my bowl. But no. So no Andouille sausage – which we even already have (incidentally, in reading different posts on different recipes, I learned that this is not always readily available up North. Weird.). So basically these are the ingredients I used:

· 1/3 Cup of All-Purpose flour

· 1/3 Vegetable Oil

· 2-1/2 Cups of Chicken Broth

· 1 Cup of Vegetable Broth

· 1 onion chopped up

· 2 packages of chicken, cut up

· 1 Green Pepper – de-seeded & chopped up

· a few stalks of celery chopped up

· 1 can of diced tomatoes (may try Ro-Tel next time)

· 2 teaspoons minced garlic

· Okra (lol @ Sarah for buying breaded Okra)

· 1 Tablespoon of Big Kevin’s Bayou Blend Seasoning

So the first thing I did was to cut up the green pepper, onion and celery. I put those in a bowl.

Next, I cut up the chicken into small pieces, then browned those in a pan with a little bit of oil. About a capful of oil. And it’s not like the chicken really browned. More like it just cooked a little on all side. I covered the chicken when I was done and prepared to make the roux.

Then, I tackled the roux, with Cajun music in the background. I followed the recipe from the link I provided above. I mixed 1/3 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of flour in a 2-quart saucepan. Once it was mixed, I turned it on medium-high heat and kept stirring for 4 minutes. Then I turned it down and started stirring, fully prepared to stir for the full 15 minutes. Let me tell you how freaking boring that is. When you have ADD, standing there and having to stir is akin to torture. Not physically painful torture, but mentally painful torture. So I kept stirring. Suddenly I noticed the pasty-white color was starting to change. Which was good because it needed to be a dark brown-reddish color. Then it started to smell like it was burning. And I was thinking, uh-oh, is this supposed to happen? But I kept stirring. Then it set off the smoke alarm and I decided it was dark enough. I threw the smoke alarm on the couch and covered it with a blanket, then opened the kitchen window. Good thing it’s so nice outside. Then I let the roux cool, hoping I hadn’t just destroyed dinner. To me, it seemed like it was the right color. But then Jesse came home and said he thought the color looked burned (it was totally burnt, lol). Too bad because I had already added it to the pot… But anyways, here’s what it looked like.

Remember, this is the first time I have EVER made a roux, so please be kind in your criticisms about how maybe it really was burned and too dark. Please?

Ok, so roux is made and cooling. I was a little impatient but stepped away from the kitchen for a few minutes. Then I decided, I can go on and add the chicken and veggie broth. So I did. Of course, by then, I was really ready to get this stuff in the crock pot and ready to cook since it was already past 2:30. So I added the roux. Maybe it should have cooled longer. In hindsight, it also shouldn’t be burnt, but oh well. Then I added the chicken, veggies, can of diced tomatoes, okra, Cajun seasoning and garlic. I stirred it all up and turned the crock pot on high. If you’re doing this in the morning, low should be good enough. Now I just get to sit and wait and find out if the burnt roux ruined the Gumbo or not.

So now everything’s cooking. Jesse came home from work to check on it and see if the burned roux had done any damage. He tasted it and decided it wasn’t spicy enough and that the roux probably hadn’t damaged it yet. So he started adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, as seen below.

Finally, it had a kick. So we sat back and let it simmer in the crock pot a few more hours…

And this is what it looked like:

So, the big question is, did I ruin dinner or not?

Sarah Review:

Preparation: 3 out of 5. The roux sucked to make. The rest of it was easy, but the roux is why I gave it a 3. I mean, if we do this again, I may just need to order some of that ready-made roux (or have me make it!). Also, as far as crock pot recipes go, this one is definitely not an easy one. I like the ones where you just dump everything in, turn it on, and go to work, then come home to a yummy smell. This could definitely not have been made in the morning. I am not a morning person and would never get up in time to not only make a roux, but brown chicken…

Taste: 4 out of 5. I thought it was pretty good. It’s not my favorite meal and I won’t be dying to have it again, but it was good enough.

Pickiness Factor: 3 out of 5. Ok, this could turn off picky people on several levels. First, the spicyness. I love spicy foods so this was a good part of the meal. Another thing is the way it looks. It’s so dark brown and kind of an unappealing color. I know, that’s superficial, but sometimes, those kinds of things matter to me. But in this case, it was good, because it disguised what I was eating. I’ve never had okra, and I’m not a big fan on eating onions or green peppers (love the flavoring, not the texture), but the sauce color hid all of that, so I ate it an enjoyed it, without thinking, “ew, that was okra and I don’t know how I feel about okra.” I still don’t know how I feel, but I ate it. And those things also add to the pickiness – green peppers, onions and okra – they’re not the plain veggies picky people usually eat. If this had had sausage, the pickiness factor would have gone to a 1… J


Preparation: 5 out of 5. It was easy for me b/c I didn’t have to do anything! Ha! However if I as the one making it, I’d probably give it a 3/5 or a 4/5….it’s all pretty simple unless you’re not too well versed in roux creation—it just takes a lot of prep time….but that than that you can just set it and forget it!

Taste: 4 out of 5. This wasn’t the best gumbo that I’ve had, but it was definitely a wonderful first shot (like Mexican food, even bad gumbo is good gumbo, haha). I think more spices would be needed to be added in the beginning. I would also opt for fresh okra that’s not already cut up or breaded…I think the breading dissolved and make the dish a little thicker than it needed to be. Ultimately the dish still felt like it was still missing something…and I’m pretty sure that’s attributed to the lack of Andouille sausage and shrimp. Perhaps next time, it might be better to make this on a weekend in a stockpot instead of a crockpot…and when there’s about an hour left to go, split it into two separate pots and add sausage and shrimp to my portion =D

Cost: 4 out of 5. Fairly average expenses…the bulk of the cost will come from the sausage/chicken/shrimp…so if you want to skimp on any of this, your price will definitely go down. This also keeps extremely well…and would probably even taste better after being able to marry in the fridge/freezer for a few days. Just make some more rice and you’re good to go!

Average Rating: 3.83


  1. The most important thing about cooking is that if in doubt, TASTE before you dump a ton of burnt roux into your gumbo!!

    You should watch me make gumbo sometime. I spend like ten minutes on the roux then just throw a bunch of crap in the pot.

  2. Making the Roux is the hardest part of Gumbo. Your friend above is right, once you make the roux, you just dump a bunch of stuff in the pot and stir occasionally. My suggestion is to not add the okra in the beginning, wait til about 30 minutes before you serve it. This can cut down on the slimeyness. And do NOT use breaded okra, fresh is definitely best. I add a little Kitchen Bouquet (little, as in 1-2 tbls for a HUGE pot) to mine which gives you a little more depth of flavor. I've done seafood gumbos with shrimp, oysters, crab, crawfish, and/or gator meat that have turned out really great. Tomatoes don't go in gumbo, that's a whole different dish. LOL. Seasoning is the key. I add, let it simmer, taste, and add more. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor. And gumbo is always best the next day. Good luck!

  3. You should ask Jason Ducet for his parents recipe it is to this day the best Gumbo i have ever had but they keep there rue alive if i remember correctly and use venison sausage a few fresh chives on top is fantastic...I have also seen it served over creamy grits with fried oysters as a garnish but it sounds like you got it down preaty good for your first time...