Monday, November 7, 2011

How To Make Chicken Gumbo

If you've never made gumbo before, or you'd simply like to get better at it, let me share a few tips with you. But before I teach you how to make chicken gumbo, let me explain what gumbo is, for those of you who aren't familiar with the food.
The word gumbo originates from the word for "okra" in some African languages, Bantu possibly being one of them. Although gumbo originally consisted of a large quantity of okra, now some gumbo recipes don't even call for okra.
Gumbo is basically a thick (or not so thick, depending on your preference) soup, which is poured on top of, or mixed with, rice. The success of the gumbo depends on the quality of the roux, the veggies and seasonings used, and the meat that is added to the soup.
First, make sure you prepare ingredients that need to be cooked ahead of time, such as the meat, okra, and other vegetables. Once the roux is ready, you'll need to move quickly.
Roux has a huge impact on the flavor of gumbo. Roux is simply flour and oil or fat mixed and cooked together until it turns tan or dark brown. If it's your first time making roux, combine an even ratio (one to one) of flour and oil or fat. Vegetable oils, lard, or other animal fats tend to work best.
As you become more experienced, try using a bit more flour than oil in order to create a richer taste. The tricky part about using more flour is that the mixture can burn more quickly, and burnt roux can't be used in soup.
Cook the mixture over medium to high heat (higher heat once you know how to make chicken gumbo and have more experience), and keep stirring it. Focus on stirring so that the mixture doesn't burn, and you will notice it turning tan and progressively turning darker and darker. If you intend to store the roux in the fridge for a later time, it is important to remove it from the stove before it reaches the desired darkness. Then keep stirring it till it cools off, and it will turn even darker.
When you're ready to use the roux to make gumbo, remove it from the fridge and pour off the oil that rose to the top, or simply let the mixture change to room temperature and mix it up again. But if you intend to use the roux immediately, let it darken to the shade you desire, and then mix in veggies, herbs, and spices, as the recipe directs.
Be sure to heat up liquids, such as broth or water, before adding them to the mix. Or simply add it gradually. Otherwise, the roux will have trouble mixing with the liquid, and it may separate and rise to the top.
Finally, add chicken to the mix, preferably chicken that has been well-cooked ahead of time. If you like seafood, you can also add shrimp, crab, or other meats to boost the flavor.
After all ingredients have been added, the gumbo will have to simmer for quite a while. Some recipes require one or two hours, others require even more time. Longer cooking time equates to a richer flavor, so it's well worth the time and effort!
Now that you know how to make chicken gumbo, make your way over to the kitchen and give it a whirl. The more you practice, the better you'll get at making chicken gumbo. And your family will thank you!
Still hungry? Check out this delicious chicken gumbo recipe that's quick and easy to make.