Down in New Orleans, everyone claims to have a gumbo recipe that’s "the best ever." Well, I’ve got mine, too. Here it is. I learned the technique for making chicken gumbo 25 years ago, while working at K-Paul's in the French Quarter. The addition of the ham hock is something I came up with when we opened Town Hall. It adds body, richness, and a slightly smoky flavor. (If you can’t find a ham hock, just double the amount of andouille sausage.) Making gumbo is an example of what I call a long-term relationship recipe. Not only do you have to find your way with it over time, but, let’s face it, making gumbo takes a while. So think of this dish as an opportunity to cook for a group of your friends and get everyone involved. Simply put, gumbo is the perfect party dish. If you are on your own, gumbo, like most soups and stews, matures with time, so preparing it early in the morning or even a day in advance will only make it better.
A good gumbo demands a good roux, and making a good roux is an art. First, it helps to have the right tools. For the amount of roux this recipe requires, you need a cast-iron pan eight to 10 inches in diameter. That’s the perfect size for the amount of flour and oil you are going to use. Also, let’s be honest here: When you make a roux, you need to be careful. If it gets on your skin, it is going to burn. They don’t call it Cajun napalm for nothing.
Click here to see the Town Hall Spice Mixture Recipe.
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