Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good Times Gumbo

Mardi Gras is upon us, which is the perfect excuse to cook some slow cooker gumbo.  I have to say, at this point you all probably think I've been secretly sponsored by the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker Cookbook with the volume of their recipes I've been posting.  Let me say this:
1) I am obsessed with my slow cooker, and every recipe in this book as been easy, foolproof, and over-the-top delicious.
2) I only have one slow cooker cookbook, and it is this one.  Dare I say, it is the only one I'll ever need?  If you aren't a vegetarian, I can't recommend the book highly enough.  It features recipes from around the globe (Indonesian beef stew, Indian curry, ale-braised short ribs with a distinctly British feel), and great general cooking advice as well.
3) The weather has been consistently cold and gross here, and I can't stop braising and stewing things, and the slow cooker makes it criminally easy.  But never fear, the temps are in the 50s this weekend, and with spring just around the corner, I promise you more fresh, seasonal recipes soon, and ones which don't require this special (and beloved) piece of equipment, which not everyone has on hand.

That said, it was Saturday night, days away from Mardi Gras, and another headcold was descending upon the household.  It was time for something festive, something easy, and something to burn those germs out of us once and for all.  It was time for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. And here's what I love about the slow cooker: it was 9:30am, I was enjoying a pleasant latte buzz, and we had all just had some poached eggs.  The husband was working on the computer, and the boy was happily playing with his train set.  In this peaceful, energized quiet, which would be nowhere to be found around the normal time I cook dinner (5pm in a house with a toddler is not a pretty time), I put on some good music, and chopped meditatively for about 15 minutes.
I set the veggies and sausage aside and browned some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a pan.
I put the chicken in the slow cooker, added more oil to the pan, and stirred in flour to make a roux.
Gorgeous, no?  Then I added diced tomatoes and chicken broth, and brought the whole thing to a boil, turning it into the most elegant, rich, creamy sauce.
I tossed all the chopped veggies over the chicken, and poured this sauce over the top.
I hit start on the slow cooker, setting it to cook on low for eight hours.  Then I did the dishes.  This meant that by 10am, dinner was totally prepped, and except for this very easy-to-clean non-stick insert and our dinner plates, the kitchen was clean as well.  People, this is truly priceless.   Better still was the dish itself; rich, hearty, spicy and soothing, it is intensely satisfying without being overly heavy.  The veggies all just melt together, and the chicken is spoon-tender.  Let the good times roll...
Photo from Williams-Sonoma, as none of mine do the dish justice at all. 
I swear, I'm not being sponsored by Williams-Sonoma (but if anyone from there is reading, call me, we'll talk...)

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
from the Williams Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker Cookbook (aka, my bible) 
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 lb. andouille or other spicy smoked sausages, cut into 1-inch slices
1/2 lb. okra, cut crosswise into thick slices
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced plum tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, plus more, to taste
Steamed white rice for serving

1) Cook the chicken: In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker, then add the sausages. Scatter the okra, bell pepper, celery and onion on top.

2) Make the roux: Return the fry pan to medium heat and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive 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 increase the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Season with the 1/2 tsp. salt and the 1/4 tsp. cayenne, then pour the mixture over the vegetables, chicken and sausages.

3) Cook the gumbo: Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust the seasonings with salt and cayenne. Ladle the gumbo over steamed rice and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

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