Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Recipe: "Fried Chicken and Andouille Gumbo" from "Real Cajun" by Donald Link
Rating: Good
Status: Made once.

This recipe is available from Donald Link's "Real Cajun" cookbook.

This recipe is a marathon. I spread the work out over three days (the gumbo should be refrigerated in between stages to store it). The first day (with frying the chicken and making the roux) is pretty long; after that the gumbo mainly needs to be simmered for a long time, so the work is much easier.

Additional Notes:
  • I made 1/2 recipe with skin-on bone in chicken legs only (no white meat). Use a splatter guard when frying the chicken; the oil pops and splatters.
  • Use good quality stock with a robust taste to ensure a flavorful gumbo.
  • The resulting gumbo is only mildly spicy; the spice level is just noticeable but it doesn't overwhelm the gumbo's flavors (though note that I used only half of the recommended amount of jalapeƱo). It is a good level of spiciness for William.
  • Roux isn't hard to make; it just takes time, patience, and stirring. But it is a technique that requires some learning and experience to become comfortable with. My hint comments for making roux are here. The roux in this recipe is interesting because it's made with a mixture of oil and the chicken fat rendered from partially frying the chicken pieces. Unlike previous gumbos that I've made, this meant that I didn't use roux that I had prepared in advance. Frying the chicken and making the roux is part of what makes this recipe take so long; these two steps take an hour and half or even longer.
  • At the end of cooking:
    • Make sure you taste for salt and adjust. I found that my gumbo needed a lot of extra salt (which is fine, since it means that there isn't too much salt in the recipe). As Donald Link points out, getting the salt level right is really important in Cajun food, and I think that's especially true for this gumbo. I like the gumbo to be salted to the point where after you taste a spoonful, a faint trace of the saltiness lasts on your tongue for an additional second after you swallow (If you are serving this on rice, also remember that the bland rice will dilute the saltiness).
    • Once the gumbo is done, I prefer the chicken to be pulled off the bone and picked through (bones and skin discarded), and the chicken pieces to be put back in the gumbo. I think this is easier to eat and I think it tastes better since this makes sure that the chicken is coated in gumbo. In addition, since the gumbo doesn't have many ingredients in it, the chicken pieces help to add more bulk to the gumbo.
    • When the gumbo finished cooked, mine was a little thick (probably a lot of liquid evaporated). I thinned it out with a couple cups of stock. Getting the consistency right is also very important to the success of this dish; the best way to learn the right consistency is through tasting and trying out various thicknesses when you eat the gumbo on rice, so it takes time to learn. The gumbo should be a little thinner than a gravy but not as thin as a stock. If the gumbo is too thick is tends to taste cloying, heavy, and greasy; I usually thin it until it no longer tastes heavy and greasy but still has body. When reheating, taste for consistency and salt, and add water as necessary since it tends to thicken further when it's stored. The gumbo may need additional salt after it is thinned out.
  • I recommend serving the gumbo with rice.

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