NOLA Chef Shares Gumbo Recipe for October 12, National Gumbo Day

Chef Isaac Toups talks gumbo for National Gumbo Day on October 12 with a bold admonishment: "Don't skim the fat off the top!"

Photo credit: Denny Culbert

According Chef Isaac Toups, “This is Gumbo 101: the first gumbo you learn in the Cajun kitchen. It’s surely the most popular gumbo on the planet. No matter how much you might be tempted to, do not skim the little oil slick of chicken fat off the top of your gumbo. Taste that! That’s what rice is for, to soak all that flavor up. My gumbo comes out rich, and God, it’s delicious.”

Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups & The New Cajun Cooking

Chef Isaac Toups
Serves 4

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pound andouille sausage (or your favorite smoked sausage), cut into bite-size pieces (½-inch half-moons)
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
  • ½ cup grapeseed oil
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle amber-style beer
  • 5 cups chicken stock (page 12 or store-bought)
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana Liquid Snake Hot Sauce
  • Everyday Rice, for serving
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon Smokey Green Hot Sauce

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Season the chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side up, and roast for 20 minutes, or until the skin is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don’t throw that fat away, it’s going in the gumbo later.

In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, make a dark roux (page 10), using the oil and flour, about 45 minutes. Once the roux is the color of milk chocolate, add the trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery, and stir once every 5 seconds for about a minute until the vegetables begin to soften and caramelize. The roux is rocking hot, so these vegetables are going to cook really quickly. Don’t walk away! After a minute, add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Deglaze the pot with the beer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon until all the browned bits
are released. Stir constantly until it returns to a simmer. Add the stock and continue stirring until it
returns to a simmer. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper and the
cayenne. Add the reserved chicken thighs (skin, bones, everything) and their fat and the sausage.
Bring back to a bare simmer, being careful not to let it boil and not to let the roux scorch, reduce the
heat to the lowest setting on your stove, and cover. Simmer for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes,
scraping the bottom each time. Your gumbo should begin to thicken, but not like gravy. If it starts
getting too thick before the 3 hours are up and you have to hit it with a little water to thin it, do so.

Do not skim that fat off the top.

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