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How’s ya Gumbo?

and other Favorite New Orleans-isms
plus a recipe for Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

“Guuuurl, you done put yo foot in dis” the frightening, newly released ex-convict/ dishwasher growled without lifting his head from his bowl of gumbo. It was my first real kitchen job working as a prep cook, I had just prepared staff meal for the first time and I was terrified. That is until he flashed me a mostly toothless grin and reaffirmed his critique. “Gurl, to put yo foot in yo food is a good ting. It like cooking wit yo whole self, feet and all!”

Now, having grown up in the Greater New Orleans area (the Westbank to be exact yo’), I thought I had heard every local-ism and mispronunciation there was to be heard.  Luckily that day I was wrong. Here are just a few of my favorite New Orleans-isms:

“You done put your foot in it”.  One of the best all-time compliments you could pay me, particularly because it’s in reference to one’s culinary prowess.

“Makin’ groceries” means simply shopping for food at the local grocery store.  As a kid, that meant watching neighbor-ladies at the A&P with an open Dixie beer in one hand and a burning cigarette in the other while shuffling along the aisles in house slippers and “house coat” (aka night gown).  Curlers optional.

Where Y’at?”  Basically a greeting asking how one is doing.  In my circles for a time “Where y’at?” had morphed into “How’s ya gumbo?” because where you stood in regards to your current gumbo-making state of affairs was pretty much all you needed to hear to get a good picture of a person’s latest status.

“Y’at”.  At some point the expression “Where y’at?” was shortened to just Y’at (or Yat) to describe a true born and bred New Orleanian.  I consider myself a Filipina-Yat.

“Who Dat!”.  Do you live under a rock?  Football?  The Saints?

“Skrimps” (shrimp pluralized and bastardized) and “Zinc” (sink) are by far two of my most favorite (ahem) pronunciations, particularly because they are often used in the same sentence, as in “When I’m done peeling dem skrimps in de zinc I’m gone make me some gumbo, fa sho!”

I could go on and on really, but it’s Gumbo Time at my house right now because:

  • I just made roux.
  • I have a goose carcass in the freezer.
  • I am maniacal about not wasting things in my kitchen(s).

Truth be told, I did not really learn how to cook or gained a deep appreciation of New Orleans’ favorite dish until I was well into my twenties and learned some life altering techniques from an ex-girlfriend’s mother.  She also happened to be the French matriarch of a household of fourteen (!).  Silly Catholics!  Hers was a BIG family (in more ways than one) because this lady could cook some seriously delicious Creole food.

Another reason I might not have developed a deep appreciation of gumbo as a child was because I never cared for my own mother’s.  Sacrilege!  You see, like with most deeply proud home cooks of any cultural identity, cooks from the Big Easy all have their own little twists on the hometown standard (i.e. color of the roux, okra or not, filé or not, sausage with seafood or not, Lordy I could go on).  And of course, everyone thinks theirs is the best.  My mother not withstanding, there was always a huge pot of the stuff sitting on the back of the stove at every special occasion, holiday or whenever she had a surplus of “gumbo crabs” (too small to bother to peel and eat the first time around). Thankfully I learned as a young adult that it wasn’t that I didn’t like gumbo in general, but my mother’s particular version just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Soooo, with that all said I just made a big-ass pot of gumbo at my house.  Well not this big:

40 Gallon Steam Kettle.  Photo By Adrian Lo.
40 Gallon Steam Kettle. Photo by Adrian Lo.

But big enough to feed the family a few times and still give a lot away.  Here’s basically what I did.  For clarity/reference sake I’m just gonna call it Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, (yes, the same kind that we serve at the restaurant), because it is basically the same except I started with that beautiful leftover goose carcass from Christmas.  There was no way that I was not going to pay full homage to that beast and not bring her full circle with a gumbo, soup or stew. I do try to love and respect every bit of food that passes through my kitchen.  As an ex-Catholic (désolé Maria!) worshipping in the House of Food is probably the closest I’ll ever get to being religious.

Enough already!  Here’s the recipe:

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

For the stock:
1 Leftover Chicken carcass (or in my case Goose), any extra meat removed and reserved. If you aren’t starting with a carcass, but a small Whole Chicken that’s fine too.
1 Medium Onion, peeled and rough chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and smashed
6 Celery Ribs, rough chopped
1 Large Carrot, peeled and rough chopped
1TSP Dried Thyme
1 TB Whole Peppercorns
6 Bay Leaves

Place everything into a six quart pot and cover with one gallon cold water.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to barely a simmer.  Let cook uncovered for three hours.

Goose Stock Mirepoix
photo by Libby Truesdell

Strain stock and remove meat from bones if using a whole chicken.  Set Meat aside.

For the Gumbo:
3 TB Cooking Oil of Choice (Vegetable, canola, peanut, lard, whatever.  Just not olive oil.  That would be stupid and unnecessarily expensive.)
1 # Andouille Sausage, cut into ¼” wide half-moons
2 TB Dried Thyme
6 Bay Leaves
6 Garlic Cloves, peeled and minced
1 Large Yellow Onion, peeled and diced
8 Celery Ribs, peeled and diced
2 Green Bell Peppers, diced
Reserved Chicken, shredded into medium pieces
Reserved Stock
1 # Fresh Okra, sliced, blanched, drained and rinsed really well to remove as much of the “snot” as possible. Frozen is totally OK if you can’t find fresh.

Photo By Libby Truesdell
photos by Libby Truesdell

Into the same pot that you cooked the stock in add the oil, sausage, thyme and bay leaf. Cook over a medium flame until sausage is browned.  Add garlic and onions and cook for 5 minutes more.  Add celery, bell pepper and chicken and cook 5 minutes more.
Next pour in the stock and bring to low boil.

Photo By Libby Truesdell
photo by Libby Truesdell

Now, because the roux was ready to go, all you have to do is whisk some into the boiling stock and cook to your desired thickness.  I used about 1 ½ cups.

Photo By Libby Truesdell
Reserved goose meat in the back. Pre-made roux in front. Photo by Libby Truesdell

The last step is to add the okra and simmer for about 10 minutes more.

P I Like To Eat Mine With Steamed White Rice And Lots Of Sliced Scallion On Top.  Photo By Libby Truesdell.
I like to eat mine with steamed white rice and lots of sliced scallion on top. Photo by Libby Truesdell.