“There are as many ways to make gumbo in Louisiana as there are cooks,” says chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s restaurant in New Orleans, “but the thing they all have in common is the use of a roux.” His rich, hearty version—a “filé gumbo” made with filé or ground sassafras leaves—uses oil leftover from browning chicken to make the roux, increasing the meaty flavor and complexity of the dish. Add the vegetables in two stages to provide different levels of taste and texture, and be sure to cook them until no longer stringy. (Note: Brigtsen’s original recipe calls for rabbit, which you’re welcome to use. We’ve adapted it for chicken here.)
What You Will Need
- 1 lb. Andouille sausage, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced (¼-inch thick)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cups diced yellow onions (½-inch pieces), divided
- 3 cups diced celery (½-inch pieces), divided
- 2 cups diced green bell pepper (½-inch pieces), divided
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 Tbsp. gumbo filé powder
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic (3 cloves)
- 4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
- 1⁄4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 12 cups unsalted chicken stock or water
- 1 chicken, cut into pieces, ribcage reserved, or 3-4 lbs. bone-in chicken pieces
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning such as Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Meat Magic seasoning
- About 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil
- Cooked rice, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the sliced sausage on a baking sheet and bake until the edges are lightly browned, 35-40 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- In a large pot over high heat, heat the olive oil. Add 3 cups onion, 2 cups celery, 1½ cups bell pepper, and the bay leaves; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup onion, 1 cup celery, and ½ cup bell pepper; lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the added onions turn clear, 2-3 minutes. Add the filé powder, garlic, salt, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.. Lower the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the filé powder is fully hydrated and begins to look sticky, smooth, and pasty, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the cooked sausage, lower the heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Skim away any excess oil that rises to the surface and discard.
- Meanwhile, fry the chicken: In a shallow baking pan or large bowl, add 2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon of the Cajun seasoning and stir to combine. Season the chicken pieces evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning.
- Line a clean baking sheet with paper towels. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add enough vegetable or peanut oil to reach about ½ inch up the sides of the pan (about 2 cups); preheat to 350°.
- Dredge the seasoned chicken pieces all over in the seasoned flour and set them next to the stove. Carefully transfer the pieces to the hot oil, working in batches as needed to avoid crowding, and cook, turning once, until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes per side.
- Remove the chicken pieces to the prepared baking sheet briefly to drain. (Let the remaining oil cool slightly in the pan.)
- To the simmering gumbo broth, add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fully cooked and tender throughout, 30-35 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the gumbo and place them in a shallow pan or large platter to cool slightly. Pull the meat from the bones and set aside (discard the bones and skin).
- Make the roux: Slowly and carefully strain some of the frying oil into a heatproof glass measuring cup. (You want the clear oil, with no browned bits of flour.) Set aside ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the frying oil and discard the rest.
- Wipe out the cast iron skillet and set it back over high heat. Add the reserved frying oil. Once hot, gradually add 1 cup of flour, whisking constantly; cook, whisking constantly, until the roux becomes the color of peanut butter (2 ½ minutes). Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking, whisking almost constantly, until the roux is deep reddish brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Bring the gumbo broth to a boil. Skim away any excess oil that may have risen to the top of the roux and discard. Begin adding small amounts of the roux to the boiling broth, stirring constantly to incorporate. Once fully incorporated, lower the heat to low and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally and skimming any excess oil that rises to the top, for 25-30 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot, raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring gently, until the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve with cooked rice.