According to Jan Birnbaum, the interesting thing about gumbo is that it is so personal. Ask any New Orleans native where to get the definitive version and he or she will almost certainly say, "Come to my house." Birnbaum's repertoire ranges from duck to seafood to this recipe for rooster. A very large roasting chicken is a fine substitute.
Amazing Chicken Recipes
6 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 pounds meaty ham hocks
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
One 6-pound rooster or roasting chicken, quartered
1/2 cup Jan's Spice Mix
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large Spanish onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large poblano chiles, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 pounds okra, sliced 1/2 inch thick
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 large scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
One 1 1/4-ounce jar filé powder (scant 1/2 cup; see Note)
How to Make It
In a large stockpot, bring the stock, ham hocks and bay leaves to a boil. Cover and keep at a slow, steady simmer over low heat.
In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 1/4 cups of the oil until shimmering. Season the chicken quarters all over with 1/4 cup of Jan's Spice Mix. Working in 2 batches, sear the chicken over moderate heat until deeply browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Add the chicken to the stock, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breasts and 50 for the legs. As the chicken is done, transfer it to a bowl. Continue to simmer the ham hocks until tender, 10 minutes longer, then transfer to the bowl. Skim the fat from the stock and keep warm.
Meanwhile, pour the oil from the deep skillet into a large cast-iron skillet. Heat the oil. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, until a deep brown roux forms, about 8 minutes. Scrape the roux into a heatproof bowl.
In the very large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the celery and onions and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 12 minutes. Add the jalapeños, bell peppers and poblanos and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the okra, garlic and the remaining 1/4 cup of Jan's Spice Mix and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Whisk the roux into the warm stock and simmer over low heat, whisking until smooth. Stir in the cooked vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the fat from the surface of the gumbo occasionally.
Meanwhile, pull the meat from the chicken and ham hocks and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Add the meat to the gumbo along with the andouille and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the scallions, whisk in the fié powder and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and serve.
The gumbo can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
Filé powder is a Creole seasoning made from ground dried sassafras leaves. It is typically used to flavor and thicken gumbos and other stews. It is available at specialty markets.
Steamed white rice.
Fat, buttery whites, including California Chardonnay, cleanse palates challenged by complex and spicy stews. Jan Birnbaum admits most winemakers might prefer to serve beer with dishes like these.
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