After listening to the New Orleans edition of the Splendid Table last weekend, I have had Gumbo on the brain. Since jetting off to New Orleans wasn’t really a likely addition to my weekly to-do-list, I knew there was really only one way to get my fix. And it just so happens that the star produce in Gumbo is in season right now: peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and, of course, okra.
I have been pretty swamped with work though. [This week I got to help lead a healthy seasonal recipe development workshop for a recipe book project for school lunch programs!!! How cool is that?!!!] So I wanted to make this a slow-cooker recipe. That way I could do all the prep ahead, set it up in the morning and not have to worry about walking into the house and magically whipping up dinner.
A few ingredient notes:
The tomatoes: I used fresh tomatoes because they are abundantly available and in season right now, and they are lower in sodium than canned tomatoes. Also, I love the fresh juicy chunks of tomatoes in this hearty soup. It does take a bit of work to peel and seed them, but I think the results are worth it. If you don’t have time to deal with peeling and seeding fresh tomatoes, feel free to substitute roughly chopped canned whole tomatoes. You’ll need about 6 cups. Just be sure to drop the added salt down.
The Okra: Right now okra is available at Farmers Markets and in good grocery stores. I like to buy a little extra, so when I come across a pithy one, I can discard it. If you can’t find it fresh, frozen is fine.
The Andouille: Andouille can pack some heat. So if your family would prefer a more mild soup, use kielbasa instead and seed (or omit) the jalapeno.
The Gumbo File: Gumbo File is a spice used in Creole cooking made from sassafras. It has a piney flavor and is typically used to thicken Gumbos. I found it in the bulk spice section of our local food co-op. If you cannot find it, the soup will be a touch less thick, but still delicious.
- 4 large tomatoes
- 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium Spanish onions, chopped
- 1 small head garlic, finely chopped, about ¼ cup
- 1 large jalapeno pepper, minced, seeds to taste (optional)
- 8 ounces Andouille sausage or kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon dried rolled sage
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Pinch nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups diced bell peppers
- 2 cups sliced okra
- 1/2 cup long grain brown rice
- 1 tablespoon Gumbo File powder
- Freshly chopped parsley for garnish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Set aside. Core tomatoes and score an “x” on the bottom. Dip the tomatoes into the boiling water and boil until the skin starts to peel away, but the flesh isn’t mushy, 40 seconds to 2 minutes. Drain tomatoes and transfer to the ice bath to cool. Drain and slip skin off of the cooled tomatoes. Cut in half along the equator. Gently seed tomatoes over a bowl lined with a fine mesh sieve to catch any juices. Roughly chop the tomatoes. (You should have about 6 cups.)
- Combine broth and ¾ teaspoon salt in a large slow cooker and turn to low heat for 8 hours.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt over the chicken. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, if using, and Andouille or kielbasa to the skillet and cook, stirring often until the onions are browned and softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in sage, thyme and nutmeg and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 to 90 seconds. Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, reserved tomato juice from the bowl and tomato paste to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Remove from the heat and transfer to the slow cooker.
- Add rosemary sprig, celery, bell peppers, okra and rice to the slow cooker and cover. Cook until the timer goes off and turn off heat if necessary. Discard rosemary sprig and stir in gumbo file. Do not continue to cook with file. Garnish with parsley.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: