Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My "Big Easy" Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I grew up an hour from New Orleans for the first eighteen years of my life.  Later, after college, I worked right in the heart of downtown NOLA and lived in the suburbs for three years. 

When you live near the "Big Easy," you pick up a few things about its culture.  Known best for its food, music and fun, the city is one of a kind.  Like the nickname suggests, in New Orleans typically everything is slower, simpler and easy-going. 

That's not the case, however for a busy mom or parent dealing with young children.  We don't always have time to cook and slave all day in the kitchen making a roux from scratch.  Moms like me can't just hop on the street car to head downtown for jazz music and second line dancing.  But I can play my Mardi Gras music and boogie down on my dirty floors while I make a "cheater" roux and let my slow cooker do the rest of the work for me.

Dat's right!  You heard me!  I made myself a cheater version of the good stuff! 

Here is my "Big Easy" (meaning "easy" for no-hassle) gumbo recipe:

Mandy's "Big Easy" Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
(Serves 8 to 10)

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
1 pound (14 oz or two links) of precooked turkey sausage, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of Instant Roux
3 cups of cool water
3 cups of chicken broth
1 can (10 oz) of tomato soup
1 can (10 oz) of diced tomatoes and green chilies (such as Rotel)
1/2 tbsp crushed bay leaves
1/2 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp Cajun seasoning (salt mixture)

(Cook's Note: For this recipe, you will need a large stove pot and a slow cooker.)

Generously grease a large pot with cooking spray.  Throw in your chopped onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic.  Sautee on medium high for about seven minutes or until veggies are soft and lightly browned.  Add in two cups of cool water and 1 cup of the instant roux mix.  Stir swiftly with a wooden spoon or whisk making sure all of the "roux" is dissolved and no longer lumpy.  Continue cooking on medium high for about fifteen minutes until the roux thickens, darkens and blends with the veggies.  Don't be afraid if it looks really dark, like this:

It looks like a scary dark color here but it will lighten up in color once you add the tomatoes, broth and other seasonings.  Don't worry!  Continue stirring it on occasion throughout that fifteen minutes, adding water if you need to so it doesn't stick to the pot.

While your roux is cooking and you're not stirring, chop up your chicken and sausage into small pieces.  Then place them into the bottom of a slow cooker.  Sprinkle your Cajun seasoning over the chicken and sausage pieces.  Once your roux has simmered for its course, add it to the slow cooker, on top of the meat. 

Pour in your chicken broth and additional 1 cup of water.  Add the tomato soup, diced tomatoes with chilies, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, garlic and onion powders.  Mix well.  Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  (Yesterday I cooked mine on high for two hours and low for two hours and it came out great!)

Check the consistency in case you need to thicken or liquify it more.  Taste it to see if has enough seasoning or spices for your family.  My husband called this recipe "very flavorful and full of spices without being too spicey."  I call that a perfect blend!  :-)

Serve hot over cooked rice in bowls.  Freeze any leftovers in heavy plastic containers for up to four months.  For best results, reheat on stove in a large pot, adding water if needed. 

(Cook's Note: A gumbo is a great mix of whatever you want to throw in it.  You start with that "roux" and then start placing different things in it.  I didn't have any seafood in my freezer so I went with chicken and sausage.  Try mixing it up and blending different flavors in your gumbo.  Let me know how it turns out! )

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