For authenticity, Eric recommends using Cajun andouille, a pork-based sausage that is fatty and heavily smoked but not heavily spiced. LaPlace, La., has declared itself the andouille capital, hosting an annual festival every October, but when Eric returns to his family’s home in Los Angeles to host their annual gumbo gathering, he frequents Pete’s Louisiana Style Hot Links in Crenshaw. Says Eric, "We have to buy extra to make sure that there is enough left after everybody snacks on them." If none are available, any smoked pork sausage will work.
Reprinted with permission from Come In, We’re Closed © 2012 by Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Season the chicken liberally both outside and inside the cavity with salt and pepper. Tuck the wings underneath the bird (twist at the joint) and tie the drumsticks together with string or twist ties. Place it breast-side up in a roasting pan. Roast to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, 45-55 minutes, or until the skin turns deep golden brown and juices from the center of the bird run clear into the pan when you tip them out.
Remove from the oven and rest for 25 minutes, until the chicken is cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, lower the oven to 350 degrees. Roast the andouille in a small roasting pan until fully cooked, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool, then slice into bite-sized pieces and set aside. (Grace saves the sausage fat left behind in the roasting pan to use for sautéing the trinity later on in the recipe.) Return to the rested chicken and remove and discard the skin. Pull the meat from the carcass, chop into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Return the bones back to the pan and roast in the oven until bones are deeply browned, about 25 minutes. This step is optional but adds depth of flavor to the finished stock.
Transfer the roasted bones to a large pot. Add about ¼ cup water to the drippings in the hot roasting pan and scrape up the browned bits clinging to the bottom. Pour the resulting liquid into the pot. Add the ham hock and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 1 hour, skimming away fat and impurities that rise to the surface.
Strain the resulting stock through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid and the ham hock separately. Rinse the pot of any residue and return the stock to it. Discard the chicken bones.
Once the ham hock is cool enough to handle, pick off the meat, chop into bite-size pieces, and set aside.
In a large skillet over high heat, melt the fat. Add ½ the trinity (onions, celery, and peppers) reserving the rest for later. Reduce the heat to medium-high and sauté for 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften slightly. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 more minutes. Add the vegetables to the stock along with the paprika, dried herbs, cayenne, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer briskly for about 1 hour, until the liquid is reduced by ¼, then season with salt and pepper.
To make the roux, pour the canola oil into a large skillet, preferably cast iron, and whisk in the flour to create a wet paste. Cook over medium heat, whisking often and employing patience, until the roux darkens past the "peanut butter" stage, taking on a deep, dark chocolate color and a rich, nutty aroma, about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully add the remaining chopped trinity vegetables to the roux, continuing to stir constantly until the vegetables stop spitting, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the roux to a large mixing bowl and cool for 15 minutes. Slowly whisk 2 cups of hot stock into the roux to thin the consistency.
Now it’s time to pull the gumbo together! Pour the thinned roux back into the pot of hot stock (now properly reduced), whisking vigorously to incorporate it. Add the reserved chicken, ham hock, and sausage along with the shrimp, filé, and fresh herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer until the gumbo has thickened and the shrimp are cooked, about 25 minutes. The final consistency should be somewhere between a soup and a stew, or as one cook describes, "muddy." If it is too thin, reduce the liquid until it reaches the desired consistency. Too thick? Add water or stock. When finished, season with salt and pepper.
To serve: Spoon gumbo into large, flat bowls, then spoon a liberal mound of rice in the center. Scallions are the authors’ addition for color and texture; good Creoles or Cajuns would eat their bowls neat. Leftover gumbo tastes better the next day — even better the day after that — and can be saved for up to a week in the refrigerator.