Empty the Freezer Gumbo

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Andrea Meyers - Empty the Freezer Gumbo

Our big plan to initiate the chocolate fondue pot this weekend was OBE. This was also the weekend before Mardi Gras and normally I make a King Cake, but that, too, died on the vine. We just have too much going on preparing for the move, which is only 10 days away, and some things have to give. We needed some down time, so we decided to relax and take care of a few things around the house. However, we couldn’t let Mardi Gras slide by without some sort of celebration, so we made a gumbo that used up some more stuff from the freezer.

I haven’t eaten much spicy food in the last year. Anything spicy made me miserable when I was pregnant and now it makes our baby miserable, so we went very easy on the spices and made a mild gumbo that I could safely enjoy, and then Michael doused his bowl with hot sauce. However, I’ve listed the full amount of spices in the recipe.

This is Emeril’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo, and because we are in the final throes of cleaning out the freezer, we adjusted to fit whatever we had on hand. The original recipe calls for four pounds of chicken thighs, but Michael doesn’t like dark meat so we used the last of our stash of chicken breast. Michael’s parents brought us some Polish kielbasa at Christmas, so that went into the pot along with a pound of shrimp.

This gumbo recipe uses filé powder as a thickener, and I think it would be fun to make my own some day. The powder is simply finely ground sassafras leaves, but you need to 1) have access to a sassafras tree, and 2) hang the leaves for about a week until they are dry before grinding them. I don’t have any sassafras trees nearby, so instead I used Zatarain’s brand gumbo filé powder which I found at my local grocery store, and it worked fine. If you purchase filé powder, check the ingredients to make sure that it only has sassafras as some commercial brands add thyme or other seasonings. The powder is very potent and a little goes a long way. Don’t be tempted to add the powder earlier in the cooking process, and definitely do not add more than the recipe calls for; otherwise, you could end up with a gumbo that is extremely thick and even inedible.

Of course Emeril’s recipe calls for his brand of Essence Creole Seasoning, but the recipe is included both on Food Network and here. We used it, but you can certainly use your own favorite Creole seasoning. Emeril serves this with cooked white rice, but we prefer brown rice for Creole dishes. Total prep time for the gumbo is about 4 hours, so start early.


Adapted from Emeril Lagasse, Food Network.


6 to 8 quart enameled cast iron pot or other large pot


1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces
4 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed (We used chicken breast.)
1 tablespoon Essence (recipe below) or other creole seasoning mix
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 bay leaves
9 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth (We used 5 (14 ounce) cans.)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 tablespoon filé powder

cooked brown rice
hot sauce


1. In the large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage in the oil until well browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage to drain on paper towels, and set aside. Leave the fond (the brown bits) and drippings in the bottom of the pan.

2. Sprinkle the seasoning on the chicken and place it meat side down in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and allow it to cool. Keep it in the refrigerator for later.

3. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of oil to the hot pan and warm it up over medium heat. Whisk in the flour a little at a time. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux the color of chocolate. Don’t be tempted to shorten the time or increase the heat. A good dark roux takes time, and it makes all the difference in your gumbo.

4. Add the chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers and stir. Cook until wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Return the drained sausage to the pot and add the salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock while stirring. Bring the gumbo to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

5. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.

6. Remove the pot from the heat. Pick out the chicken thighs and place them on a cutting board and let them cool slightly. Pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred it. Discard the bones. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Return the shredded meat to the pot and stir in the green onions, parsley, and filé powder.

7. To serve, spoon rice into the bottom of soup bowls and ladle the gumbo on top. Add hot sauce as desired.

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning

2-1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Makes 2/3 cup of seasoning mix.


Nola Cuisine – Homemade Filé Powder

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