Just as a kitchen failure can transform my mood from great to very stinky, so can a kitchen success turn my frown upside down.  The day I made this, I was feeling quite cranky.  It was Sunday after a very long, hard week at work and a big party at our house on Saturday evening.  I was kicking myself for planning what seemed like such an involved meal for Sunday dinner when I felt as though I only really had the energy to pick up my phone and order a pizza.  But, because of all the ingredients already in our fridge that I did not want to go to waste, I powered through.  With much grumbling I prepped the components and started cooking.  After the roux was made I was even slightly more perturbed because I had never made roux with oil before and well, it just didn’t smell magical like a roux made with butter.  Then I added the vegetables to the pan and everything changed.  The kitchen smelled fantastic.  The dish was clearly going to turn out, but more than that, it was going to be amazing.

Sometimes you just know that about a meal and in this case, I knew.  It does take a bit of work initially but then simmers for a few hours, making your house smell incredible and possibly making you drool in anticipation.  I was not expecting to love this as much as I did, but in fact I loved it so much that I it now ranks above chili on my list of favorite foods.  Yeah, I said it.  I’m happy to report that this freezes very well.  One full batch makes a ton of food, but if you’re already investing the time to make it, go ahead and make the full batch.  I froze half and it made for a blessedly quick and satisfying meal after an extremely long work day.  We’re looking forward to enjoying this many more times as the weather gets colder and we make the most of our time inside, at home, together.  Fall, we are glad you’re here.

  • Yield about 12 servings

Ingredients

6 oz. bacon, diced
2 lbs. chicken legs or thighs, bone-in and skin-on
Salt
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced (or spicy Italian sausage, crumbled)
½ cup peanut or other vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
½-1 lb. okra, sliced into discs
3 green onions, chopped
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving

For the Cajun spice mix:
1 tsp. black pepper
½-1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. celery seed
2 tbsp. sweet paprika
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. dried oregano

Directions

  • 01

    In a large stockpot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Set the chicken pieces skin side down in the bacon grease to brown.  Season the side facing up with salt.  Cook 4-5 minutes without moving.  Flip the chicken pieces over and brown on the opposite side.  Remove the browned chicken pieces to a plate and set aside.  Add the sausage to the pan and cook until well browned.  Remove to the plate with the chicken.

  • 02

    The amount of fat remaining in the pot should be about ½ cup.  Add the additional peanut or vegetable oil to the pot.  After the oil has heated for a minute or two, stir in the flour.  Stir this mixture together almost constantly for the first few minutes, then every couple of minutes or so thereafter.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the roux until it becomes fairly dark, about the color of coffee with a bit of cream mixed in.

  • 03

    While the roux is cooking, combine the chicken stock and water in a separate pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and maintain at a simmer.

  • 04

    When the roux has reached the appropriate color, stir in the diced green pepper, celery and onion.  Mix well.  Let cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes.  Mix in the tomato paste.

  • 05

    Using a large ladle, gradually add the hot chicken stock mixture to the pot.  It will sizzle and seize as the roux absorbs the liquid.  Continue adding the stock, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot.  You may not need the full amount of liquid but add enough so that it is slightly more watery than you want the final product to be since the mixture will cook down over several hours.  Stir in half of the Cajun spice mix and add more to taste.  (I already had a Cajun spice blend on hand so instead I added 3 tablespoons of that and went from there.)

  • 06

    Reduce the heat to medium-low and return the chicken pieces to the pot.  Let simmer gently until the chicken meat falls easily away from the bones, about 90 minutes.  Remove the chicken pieces and let cool slightly.  Return the sausage to the pot with the gumbo, and stir in the sliced okra.  Shred the cooked chicken meat, discarding the skin and bones (or saving for a later use).  Add the shredded chicken pieces back to the gumbo.  Cook the gumbo for an additional hour or more, until the gumbo has reached your desired final consistency.  Before serving, stir in the green onions and reserved bacon and sprinkle with the parsley.  Serve over rice or with crusty bread.

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