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RBR Tailgating: Gumbo in The Lion’s Den

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It’s what they do, and they do it so well, but this Louisiana classic dish is not beyond us.

I’m going to be brief this week. The Baton Rouge relatives, a gift from my wife’s side, are pouring into Alabama for the game and we have, in addition to contemporaries, cousins from age five to fifteen interacting in the most amazing ways, and by that I mean five year olds ready to fight over a slightly tarnished penny. That actually happened.

I decided this week to go right at them and try my hand at Gumbo. Until Monday, I was a dark roux virgin. I’ve done the blond stuff, usually with a little butter and an equal amount of flour to fluff up some white wine gravy for pork chops. But I’d never gone full chocolate.

The embarrassing thing was how easy it seemed and how well received it was.

I’m open to the beginner’s luck idea. The first time I shot skeet, we were sending four pigeons per shooter and then passing the gun to the next person. I hit four for four having never even picked up a shotgun before. I thought I was a savant. I missed every single shot the rest of the day. Don’t always count on early success. I’m aware that failure is a potential, but things in this case worked out so well.

I read gumbo site after recipe site warning me of the dangers that lay ahead. A roux must be constantly stirred for an hour or more said one. Saveur warranted lining up a few beers on the counter to ease the doldrums of the nigh eternal vigilance required. It was looking to be a daunting task.

As it turns out, it wasn’t that hard. My roux wasn’t perfect by any means, but I got desired color within ten to fifteen minutes and the final gumbo earned the okay from a few Baton Rouge luminaries. First, my mother in-law, a Baton Rouge native spoiled by forty plus years of Birmingham living, thought it was pretty damn good. More importantly was the opinion of my mother in-law’s sister, one of the owner’s of the Baton Rouge staple and fine dining giant, Juban’s Restaurant.

She thought it was pretty good.

I kind of back flipped at that. Giggidy.

I asked for a no holds barred critique. She told me that she could taste flour. That’s apparently a bugaboo of many an attempted gumbo chef. My flour taste was not so egregious as to keep her from finishing the serving. She mentioned flour or oil brand or type and heat distribution as one of several culprits. Either or, she finished the portion, and gave it a thumbs up.

So the following is not the Platonic Juban’s gumbo and make no mistake, theirs is a duck, chicken, sausage ideal. They, per my wife’s aunt, nurture their roux for a full day. No home cook will equal that. Can we come close? Can we keep LF7 to 31 yds while only stacking the box five times and convince Darrius Guice we are therefore afraid of their running game? In both cases I think we can.

Simple Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

1 lb. shredded chicken meat, pre-cooked (dark meat is better, but do what you will)

1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into ¼ inch rounds

1 cup flour

1 cup canola oil

1 large green bell pepper, deseeded and diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

6 cups chicken stock

1 dried bay leaf

1 tbsp. sweet paprika

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. powdered cayenne pepper

salt & pepper to taste

rice or crusty bread

Start with a cup of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add a bit of flour, whisk, a bit more, whisk, a bit more, observe the pattern.

It will gain a bit of color. Don’t stop whisking.

Actually, if you keep whisking you’ll see real progress in the first five minutes.

Satisfying. Keep whisking.

Look at the wonder you have produced.

Add the trinity. That’s what they are forced to call onion, celery, and bell pepper. In proper French cooking, it’s onion, celery, and carrots, but carrots don’t grow in LA so they have to use bell peppers for sweetness. Always make the Cajuns acknowledge that theirs is a compromised cuisine.

Add sausage, all the spices, and garlic too. Stir for a minute or so and then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let go an hour stirring occasionally. Add chicken, let go a second hour, stirring as needed.

Serve over rice or with some crusty bread.

This match-up is special to me. I have not not been in the stands since 2007. This year, I’m passing. We have a passel of tickets and my brother in-law and I plus two of our wives’ LSU cousins have monopolized them since the end of the Shula era. We’re passing on them, letting others go.

Maybe it’s that we are getting older, maybe it’s that we are… let’s stop fooling ourselves, we are getting older. We’ve also missed out on ten years of partying back at my in-law’s various houses. A suburban flat screen tv will never convey the joy of Yeldon’s game saver in Death Valley because being there was transcendent. That given, I’m going to enjoy this edition with loved ones in yellow and purple. This is my favorite game. Every year.

If things go right, I’ll see their tears in real time.

Roll Tide, no injuries, and enjoy.