During the seven years that I worked my last job — spent mostly in a windowless, florescently-lit, cubicle of an office — I was always desperate to escape the building for lunch.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love my job. (I did.) It wasn’t that I wanted to go home to eat. (I lived too far away.) It wasn’t even that I just wanted to go out to eat. (I usually brought my lunch at least half the time.) It was simply that I had to escape that dark cave and soak up some sunlight for at least a few minutes each day, and eating out once or twice a week was an easy excuse to do so.
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3large bell peppers, cored and diced (I used one red, one yellow, one green)
2large celery stalks, diced
1small white onion, peeled and diced
2 cups fresh or frozen chopped okra
1 pound (16 ounces) andouille sausage, sliced
5cloves garlic, minced
1(14 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoonCreole seasoning
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1–2teaspoons cayenne, to taste
1–2teaspoons salt, to taste
1–2teaspoons freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
optional for serving: white rice or quinoa, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, hot sauce
Heat oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. (I used a Dutch oven.) Whisk in flour until combined. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the roux mixture reaches a dark brown color (similar to milk chocolate), about 18-20 minutes. Be very careful not to let the roux burn! (And if it does, throw it out and rinse out the pan, then start again and lower the temperature of your stove slightly.)
Once the roux reaches the dark brown color, stir in the bell peppers, celery, onion, celery, and okra until combined. Continue to cook, stirring every 10-15 seconds, until the vegetables have softened a bit, about 8-10 minutes.
Stir in the andouille, tomatoes, Creole seasoning, thyme, cayenne, salt, and pepper until combined. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Gradually stir in the stock, chicken and bay leaves, and continue cooking until the soup reaches a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let the gumbo simmer for at least 5-10 minutes minutes until the vegetables are completely tender. Taste, and season with extra salt, pepper and/or cayenne if needed.
Serve warm with rice or quinoa, sprinkled with fresh parsley and/or hot sauce if desired.