One of my regular recipes is a gumbo recipe written by a friend of a friend. The only name I knew him by was Fluffy. I never met him and he lived in Seattle and wrote a gumbo recipe. I had never had gumbo before, so making it at home from this recipe was my first experience with it. I’ve since lived in the South and visited New Orleans and had Really Good Authentic gumbo and it isn’t really like what I make. But this recipe remains on rotation in my house.
The first iteration of this recipe was made with actual peas instead of black-eyed peas because I didn’t know what black-eyed peas were, my grocery store in Hawaii didn’t have any, and I basically had no idea what I was doing. And I have made it with green peas for years. But making it with black-eyed peas is a lot more authentic and is also more delicious.
The spiciness of this recipe can be adjusted by adjusting the cayenne pepper. I also often leave out the onions (or substitute onion powder) because my dedicated food audience (a.k.a. my husband) doesn’t eat most onions. Alas, for onions! It can be made with less chicken. Or more. Or more celery or less, etc. The recipe is quite flexible.
This is a get-all-your-pots-and-pans dirty kind of recipe and it takes a little while to make because of all the things going on at once. I can make it in about half an hour now, but starting out it was a “this takes a long time” recipe for me. And really it’s most delicious if you can let it stew for a while.
I’ve changed the recipe slightly from the original, but with credit to Fluffy, the mysterious friend of a friend I never knew, here it is.
1/2 cup olive oil + additional for pans
1/2 cup flour
2-4 chicken breasts
1 lb. andouille (or kielbasa) sausage, sliced
3-4 ribs celery chopped
1 onion, white or yellow, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz can, diced tomatoes
14 oz can, black eyed peas
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp basil
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp thyme
Salt and pepper
Place chicken breasts into a small pot and cover with water, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of kosher salt. Cover with lid and bring to a boil, before reducing heat to medium. While continuing with other steps, cook chicken through.
Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup each of flour and oil into a large pot to prepare a roux. Stir together and cook over medium heat until roux darkens to a light brown (or darker as you prefer), but be careful not to burn it. Keep stirring until it stops bubbling.
Take chopped celery, onion, and garlic and stir them into the roux, which should still be piping hot. When they stop sizzling, add cans of tomatoes and black eyed peas, including liquid. Bring the heat up again until mixture is simmering. Add cayenne pepper, cumin, basil, oregano, and thyme. Reduce heat and cover. The gumbo will thicken and can burn, so stir occasionally.
Slice a pound of andouille (or kielbasa or some other similar sausage, if andouille isn’t available), and sauté in olive oil. When well toasted, add to gumbo, but retain the drippings. Remove the chicken from the water, checking for doneness. Retain the water from cooking the chicken. Chop the chicken and fry it in the sausage drippings, grinding black pepper on top. Fry it until it’s finished cooking and the meat turns slightly golden. Stir the chicken into the gumbo, then add chicken broth to thin to desired thickness.
Simmer the gumbo on medium-low heat. If you have it, for a couple of hours. Or you can eat it nearly right away if you’re hungry and it’s already 9 PM… Serve over rice. The gumbo freezes well.