…or at least a slow cooker in that direction.
Last week’s early burst of winter weather prompted us to search out a comfort food recipe, and Tara and I turned once more to our Williams-Sonoma Slow Cooker cookbook. I’m a big fan of gumbo, so I zeroed in on the Chicken & Sausage Gumbo. Tara had never had gumbo, so she was more reluctant but was ultimately game to give it a try. Here’s the recipe, direct from the cookbook:
Olive oil, 2 tablespoons
Skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 4, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Andouille smoked sausages, 3/4 lb., cut into 1-inch slices
Okra, 1/2 lb., cut crosswise into thick slices [Note: We used frozen, thawed]
Red or green bell pepper, 1, seeded and chopped
Celery, 3 stalks, chopped
Yellow onion, 1, chopped
Flour, 2 tablespoons
Chicken broth, 2 cups
Diced plum tomatoes, 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) with juice
Cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon
Steamed white rice, for serving
Cook the chicken: In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker, then add the sausages. Scatter the okra, bell pepper, celery, and onion on top.
Make the roux: Return the frying pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle the flour in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the broth and the tomatoes with their juice and raise the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cayenne and then pour over the vegetables, chicken, and sausage.
Cook the gumbo: Cover and cook on the high-heat setting for 4 hours or on the low-heat setting for 8 hours. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Ladle the gumbo over steamed rice and serve.
There’s a fair amount of chopping here, and as with most of the recipes in this cookbook, the meat is braised first, so it’s not as easy as just throwing some things in the slow cooker, turning it on, and checking back in eight hours. Still, there is indeed something nice about having the aroma of the stew slowly fill the house over those hours while we watched football. And — again with the temperatures in the 40s — the prospect of the stew warmed us mightily even before we ladled it out.
And how did it taste after that ladling? Hmmm…. Tara still doesn’t like gumbo; just not her thing, she says. I like it more than she did, but not as much as other gumbos I’ve made in the past from different recipes. For one thing, it didn’t seem quite hot enough for me — neither in terms of the temperature or in terms of the spiciness. The first problem is an odd one: Eight hours in the slow cooker apparently gets stuff warm but not piping hot, leading me to wonder if we shouldn’t pop it up to “High” in the last half-hour of cooking. (I’ll need to check on that as a tactic.) The second problem was easily remedied: A few more dashes of Tabasco did the trick! (A few dashes per bowl, I should stress — so many dashes for the full recipe.)
A while back we made Jambalaya for one of our True Blood evenings and that proved an instant favorite. This one didn’t entirely, but we’ve got plenty more slow cooking during the season ahead and will keep looking for recipes to make it really pay off.