I grew up disliking gumbo, and as a Cajun, this is almost unheard of. This is basically a staple meal in every home in Cajun country, and every family has their own way of creating it. Actually, I didn’t care to eat any food that used a roux in the making of it. But since I wanted so badly to “like” it, I would still taste it every time someone would cook it – just in case my taste buds may have changed!
Even as an adult, I had not acquired the taste for roux-based Cajun dishes. But then, something happened…
When I was about six months pregnant for our first child, I tasted gumbo again for the umpteenth time…
And I liked it! Today, I love it! But now, I love it rich and healthy.
Turns out, gumbo is now one of our first born’s favorite foods! What-a-ya know?
Although gumbo is a special, prominent dish from the South, each family personalizes it to their own liking, and that particular cooking style is usually passed down with each generation. My personal gumbo creation combines a mixture of both my husband’s family and my family’s cooking style. The flavorful secret I discovered from my husband’s family was to use a bouillon cube for every cup of water added to the pot; or, instead of using bouillon altogether, you can use broth. I use both bouillon and broth – and now I delight in using homemade bone broth.
Just like with many other home-cooked meals, it is not a dish for which we follow an exact recipe. There are measurements for a few things that I use in my head, but for the most part, it is very much “eye-balled,” as some would call it. I took my time and wrote down every single step and measurement to get it as close as possible to how I make a healthy, rich, and nutritious gumbo with bone broth.
Want to make your own bone broth? Making your own bone broth is as easy as using the leftover carcass or bones from chicken, steak, roast, or turkey: Cover with water and simmer on the stove or slow-cooker for 12-18 hours until the bones can be easily pierced with a fork. Strain out the bones and debris, and store in freezer bags or mason jars in the freezer or a few days in the refrigerator (it will gel once cold – this is normal). I have only used the slow-cooker for this, and it has worked out wonderfully!
For a more detailed description about bone broth and how to make it, Katie Wells with Wellness Mama has a great post on that.
Many people say that they don’t have time to cook nutritious food, but as a mom, I feel like it’s my job to make sure I’m preparing wholesome nutrition for my family. So, it was up to me to figure out a way to do that! It has been my mission to make sure that our family meals are serving their purpose as the most important part of a healthier lifestyle. Therefore, I’ve learned to do things as simple and as quick as I can to save time. Making parts of a meal in advance (cooking the roux, chopping up seasonings, etc.) can also save time when I am ready to cook the entire meal. We can make time for anything we really want to!
What about the sausage? You are welcome to use any homemade sausage as well! We now only use nitrate- and nitrite-free sausage. No chemicals please! Oscar Mayer and Hillshire Farm now both make these products without nitrates and nitrites, just make sure to read the labels and ingredients!
In order to create a gumbo, you must first start with a roux. A roux is basically a butter and flour mixture that is cooked very slowly until it gets to the desired darkness you prefer. I bake my roux because I am a busy woman in my household, and I like the fact that I can fold clothes, homeschool the kids, and go outside if necessary while the roux is cooking. It may take a little longer, but I’m able to do many other things while it’s baking at 20 minute intervals. If you’re cooking a roux on a stove top, you must stir constantly and do not walk away! Stir and stir until it becomes the desired color. If you walk away for only a few seconds, you risk burning all your hard work!
A roux can also be made the day before you need it. Store covered in the same pot. Once cooled, all the excess oil comes to the surface, and if desired, it can be poured out before finishing your Cajun recipe. Once the roux is mastered, the rest of the recipe is easy peasy!
**As always, I cook large meals for my family, so feel free to cut this recipe in half or even thirds or fourths!
1. While the roux is still very hot, add the chopped vegetable seasonings – onions, bell peppers, celery, green onions, and garlic. If you don’t have celery, you can also add a little celery salt to your gumbo. Continue stirring until the seasonings are translucent. If your roux was made in advance and it is not hot before you start this step, make sure to warm it up first. The seasonings should sizzle when you add them to the pot.
2. Continue stirring, adding 12 cups of water to the hot roux and seasoning mixture, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. I like to boil the water on the side first, so that the water is already hot when adding it to the roux mixture. You may also want to whisk it together to break up the roux mixture, blending it into the water. Continue stirring so that the roux mixture blends in with the water to create a smooth, soup-like consistency.
3. Add the bouillon seasoning and stir until dissolved, and then add the 4 cups of bone broth.
4. Add the chopped sausage, cover, and simmer/low boil for about 30-45 minutes (or longer, if you desire) until the sausage is well-cooked into the broth. Add the de-boned chicken (or turkey), and simmer uncovered until heated thoroughly. I add the chicken last because this type of meat tends to fall apart and shred if it is cooked too long with the rest of the meat. I prefer pre-cooked, de-boned chicken, both white and dark meat. Many times, I use leftover chicken from a meal the night before.
5. At this point, it is time to taste for saltiness. Adding a few teaspoons/tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and/or salt may be necessary. You may need to add another cup of water if too much water has cooked out during the simmering process. The more water you add, the thinner the consistency will be. We like ours to be a rich, soup-like, thin gravy in the end, and it will thinly coat a spoon.
I like to put my potato salad in the bowl with my gumbo!
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