Mardi Gras is officially tomorrow! While you may not be able to gather on New Orlean's famous Bourbon Street to drink hurricanes, catch beads and eat your weight's worth in beignets, that doesn’t mean the party has to completely stop. You can have your very own Mardi Gras party at home by decorating in beautiful colors of purple, green and gold and also cooking a popular Louisiana dish, gumbo.
This gumbo recipe comes from the esteemed Louisianian chef, Isaac Toups. Gumbo is a stew made with a thick roux and oftentimes includes meat, seafood and vegetables. As Louisiana’s official state food, it would make sense to celebrate Mardi Gras with this flavorful dish.
There are different types of gumbos that have been developed over the years, but this recipe is fairly classic. It calls to make a dark roux by combining oil and flour then mix in with onions, celery and bell peppers (known as the "holy trinity" in New Orleans-style cuisine). After adding seasonings, remember to stir frequently to avoid your roux burning.
For this rich gumbo recipe, Toups only includes chicken and andouille sausage but if you’re looking for something different, you can add in crab, shrimp or oysters for a seafood gumbo. Or you can make a vegan gumbo using vegetable broth, vegetables and vegan meats. Make sure to include white rice, dirty rice or red bean and rice to serve on the side.
If you’re still looking for ideas on what to cook for Mardi Gras, there are a plenty more popular Creole and Cajun recipes you can make at home.
Recipe courtesy of Isaac Toups
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
10 cloves garlic, crushed
4 bay leaves
12 ounces amber-style beer
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound andouille sausage (or your favorite smoked sausage), cut into bite-size pieces (½-inch half-moons)
Rice for serving
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Pepper paste, optional
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400F. Season the chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of 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.
Step 2: In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, make a dark roux by simmering the oil and flour for 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.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: 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.
Step 5: 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.
Step 6: 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.
Step 7: Serve with rice. Garnish with sliced green onions. If you want to bump up the heat, add a little scoop of pepper paste.