It’s amazing how cold it’s been. Everywhere.
The Motor City has seen more ‘less than 20 degree’ days than it has ever seen – or felt – before. This extreme cold had even brought us a record 12 consecutive days under 20 at the beginning of January with most of those days being below 10 degrees. It was brutal for sure. Schools were even canceled one day when it was below zero with a high wind chill.
Then it seems like everyday New Orleans is frozen over. Everyone’s having a winter blast with all of the memes being shared across social media. It’s something else seeing photographs of a frozen over Jackson Square or the second line statues at Armstrong Park covered in ice. This is what I’ve been seeing about New Orleans the past week or two:
With the prolonged cold spell – at least in the south which hasn’t seen record colds like this in over 20 years – means a prolonged gumbo and soup season. Up here in the north, it can be cold and snowy through March, so we can cycle through quite a few soup and chili recipes before all is said and done.
My soup season usually consists of plenty of chicken noodle soup, various chilis, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and the occasional Hot Red Pepper Soup with Creole Croutons (you can find that recipe by clicking here). And of course, there are those days when the only thing that can warm me up is a gumbo.
This is one of my favorite meals to make. I love the way the house smells while the roux cooks and when the trinity is added. Plus, there’s bacon. I usually put about three slices of chopped bacon into the recipe but I sometimes cook extra just so I can snack on a piece or two. Then there’s the beer. It’s not in the recipe because it doesn’t go into the gumbo but it pairs well with the roux-making process – it’s not required but is a nice added bonus for the cook.
So, while it’s cold and miserable and you’re stuck indoors, make a gumbo. Hopefully, it’ll warm up a bit by Mardi Gras. Y’all want to be singing Mardi Gras songs about Brother John, not Brother Long-Johns. According to the National Weather Service, the coldest it has ever been for Mardi Gras was 39 degrees recorded on February 14, 1899. Perhaps Mother Nature will have a huge mood swing and it’ll be the warmest ever! Which, if you remember, was last year. It was a mere 83 degrees.
What’s your favorite gumbo or soup recipe that keeps you warm in these frigid days? Let us know in the comment section below. Here’s mine:
Chicken, Sausage, Okra Gumbo
- 3 bacon slices chopped
- 1 lbs smoked sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 3-4 lbs chicken thighs with bones
- 1-2 tsp Creole seasoning
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup flour
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
- 3 ribs of celery diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups frozen okra thawed
- 8 cups chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- green onions for garnishment
- cooked white rice or potato salad
- hot sauce and file powder for serving
In a large pot, brown the bacon pieces and smoked sausage. Remove and set aside. Lightly season the chicken pieces with your favorite Creole seasoning blend. Once the bacon and smoked sausage are done, add the chicken pieces to the rendered fat from the bacon and sausage and brown working on batches, if needed. Remove and set aside.
In the same pot (preferably a cast iron pot), make a dark roux with the olive oil and flour. Be patient, this could take up to 30 or more minutes. You want a nice dark chocolate color.
Once the roux is at the right color, add the onions, green bell peppers, and celery to the pot and continue to stir for 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir from 2 minutes. Add the seasonings to the pot and keep stirring for another 3 minutes.
Return the sausage, bacon, chicken, and thawed okra to the pot. Cover everything with the chicken stock, which should be about 8 cups. Raise the TEMP to HIGH and bring the pot to a boil; reduce heat to MED and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 30-minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pot and reduce the heat to LOW. Let the chicken cool for about 5 minutes then remove the meat from the bones, discarding the bones. Also, remove the 3 bay leaves from the pot, then return the chicken meat back to the pot. Adjust the flavor of the gumbo with salt and pepper before serving.
To serve, ladle the gumbo in a bowl and top with either hot cooked white rice or potato salad. Garnish with chopped green onions. Offer hot sauce and file powder at the table. Enjoy!
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Keep the red beans cookin’!
Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.