My husband was the one who introduced me to Cajun food. He was born in Louisiana and, though he was too young to really remember any of it, I think it left him with a love for the food of the region. I was reluctant at first because I am not a huge fan of spicy food, but I find that Cajun food is more flavorful than just hot. Over the last few years, I have come to love dishes like jambalaya, shrimp creole, and of course gumbo. We have been using the words Creole and Cajun interchangeably for years, but we recently learned about the difference between the two. According to this article the basic difference is that creole food contains tomatoes and Cajun food does not. The article goes into more of the history of Louisiana cuisine, and describes creole food as “city food” and Cajun as “country food”. Both types of food have similar influences and use many of the same seasonings. We eat and enjoy both Cajun and Creole food, but I think we eat more gumbo than any of the other dishes.
We have followed many gumbo recipes, and over time have tweaked, changed, and combined to create a recipe that we love. I’m sure that there are components of our recipe that are not completely traditional. Traditionally, gumbo is more of a soup served over rice, but we like to cook the rice right into the dish, which I think makes it a little thicker. There are also many combinations of meat, seafood, and vegetables that are used, and we played with different variations to find what we like best. That’s the best thing about cooking at home – you can adjust recipes to fit your own tastes. On the topic of variations, we use a handmade sausage from a local deli and salumeria which is on the spicy side. If your sausage is spiced differently, you may need to adjust spices accordingly.
For us this is a great dinner for a Sunday night. The beginning part of the recipe requires a lot of hands-on time, and then it needs to simmer for about 45 minutes. Since it is time-consuming, we find it difficult to do on week nights, but weekends are much easier. The labor, however, is well worth it because the recipe is both delicious and provides a few days of leftovers for us. By making it on a Sunday, we have the time to prepare it, and go into the week with plenty of lunches. Enjoy!
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bit sized pieces
¾ cup oil (we have used olive oil and other cooking oils)
¾ cup All Purpose Flour
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Bell Pepper, diced (red pepper gives nice color to the dish)
2 Stalks Celery, diced
2 Stalks Green Onion, diced
2 cups okra, sliced (optional)
1 lb Andouille sausage cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tsp Frank’s Hot Sauce (or your favorite)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Creole seasoning
6 cups chicken broth or stock
2 cups water
1 ½ cups uncooked brown rice
- Before beginning, I recommend preparing all ingredients, as you may not have time to do so once you have started cooking.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a 5 quart (or larger) Dutch oven and cook chicken until it is cooked all the way through. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Add the flour to the oil and stir constantly over medium heat until it is the color of peanut butter.
- Add all of the vegetables to the oil and flour mixture and stir frequently until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and cook while stirring for about 3 additional minutes.
- Add Frank’s, bay leaves, Creole seasoning, broth, water, and rice. Return chicken to pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until rice is cooked. (NOTE: if you are not using brown rice, check the cooking time and add it to the gumbo later so that it only simmers for the suggested time.)