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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo – Recipe Rescued from Katrina

December 16th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Belinda Hulin, cookbook author and food journalist

Belinda Hulin, food journalist from Louisiana, has a new book, Roux Memories: A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes, that catalogues recipes and parts of lifestyles lost when hurricanes Katrina and Rita ripped through her childhood area around Lafayette, La.

Recipes from more than 40 years of life in Cajun country – crawfish gumbo, cracklin’ cornbread, dirty rice, king cake, pralines and jamabalaya are only a smattering of examples of the recipes she has tested.

Here’s a short piece about how the book came together and a special memory from her:

“Chicken and sausage gumbo is a south Louisiana classic, but truth to tell, my mother always preferred seafood gumbo. So I actually perfected the chicken and sausage gumbo recipe myself, back when I was first living on my own. I needed something distinctively Cajun that could still stretch to feed all my friends. It had to be relatively cheap to produce and equally at home when paired with iced tea, “drinkable” (read: cheap) wine or beer. And it had to feel substantial.

“Over the years, this has become one of my signature winter dishes because it isn’t ordinary, but it does qualify as comfort food. There’s also a bonus: During the long, slow process of preparing the gumbo, the house smells amazing and the kitchen gets warm and steamy.

My mother’s recipe box on the stairs

“I rescued my mother’s recipe box, which was casually stashed on a high step of the staircase before the family evacuated in advance of Katrina. While flipping through the box, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief. The box held my cousin Bertha’s famous (in Scott, Louisiana, LOL) peanut brittle recipe and her syrup cookies, which I adore. It also had recipes for Cousin Hazel’s fresh coconut filling, the birthday cakes my mother made for us and our friend Ms. Sarah’s pralines, among others.

“I especially loved finding my late father’s chili recipe–which calls for 25 pounds of beef! Seeing all those recipes, and remembering the people and places, made me smile at a difficult time.

“But after going through the box, I started to think about all the recipes that weren’t in there. For example, my grandmother’s unusual beef boulettes and the corn maque choux and smothered okra dishes I loved as a child, and my Mom’s baked stuffed redfish. And I realized that I needed to finally get those things written down, for the day when I couldn’t just ask my mother to make them.

“It took me about a year to put the recipes together. Most of the dishes are things I’ve been cooking or eating all my life, so it was mostly a matter of getting a recipe on paper that matched the taste I love. In some cases, I sent emails to cousins and friends asking for instructions. For some recipes I started with what I knew of the oral tradition – asking my mother and others what they most remembered about a dish and how their mother or grandmother prepared it – and then I’d develop, test and retest to get a workable recipe.

Fifth cookbook

“This is my fifth cookbook, but truly, this one is a labor of love. Like many ethnic cuisines, Cajun and Creole cooking is largely an oral tradition. Unfortunately, when something like a major hurricane happens, you realize that your extended family may not always be there to share the story.”

Check out Roux Memories: A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes, and another favorite from the area, Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans – other recipes rescued from cooks after Katrina.


Here’s the Chicken and sausage gumbo recipe from her new book – make it and freeze the extra in one-night portions; eat it over rice.

Chicken and sausage gumbo

  • 1 whole chicken and 4 chicken breast halves
  • 10 to 12 cups water
  • 4 bay leaves, divided
  • 6 cups strong chicken broth
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated flour
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 pound andouille or smoked sausage, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons file powder
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • Tabasco sauce to taste

In a large pot, combine chicken, chicken breasts, water and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer until chicken is done, about 35 minutes. Remove the chicken and chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Strain cooking liquid into a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add 4 cups chicken broth. Bring liquid to a boil.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine oil and flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture turns a dark reddish brown. Remove from heat and add 1/2 the onions. Stir until onions begin to brown around the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add the roux to the boiling broth. Stir to blend and reduce heat to medium. Add remaining bay leaves. Simmer 11/2 hours.

Add salt, black pepper, cayenne, white pepper, thyme and sage. Add sliced sausage and continue to simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let the pot stand 10 minutes, untouched. Skim off the sausage fat that rises to the top of the gumbo.

Turn the heat back to medium and stir in remaining onions, celery, green pepper, garlic and half the parsley. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove chicken from bones. Cut chicken meat into bite-size pieces and stir into the gumbo. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in file powder, remaining parsley and green onions. Serve in bowls with steamed rice and pass the Tabasco.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Tags: Cookbooks new and old · Recipes: What's Cooking! · Southern Roots Run Deep

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Charles Keefer // Dec 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Wow. Sounds wonderful. I’m going to make it this weekend.

  • 2 Tulip // Dec 21, 2010 at 6:08 am

    What a long journey toward perfection)) Looks yummy, going to do it. Hope my cooking skills will afford this recipe)))

  • 3 Jan Norris // Dec 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Well, the secret to this is the roux – all gumbos need a good one. Get that right, and the rest will follow!
    Go here on my site to learn it:

  • 4 Jason // Jan 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Sounds excellent. Thanks for sharing this. I’m tempted to put it together this weekend, instead of going out.

  • 5 anabolic cooking // Oct 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    He’s so good we can even forgive him for bringing ‘pukka’ into the English vocabulary.
    Here are some of the things that recipes don’t tell you:.

    The recipes at Fearless Freezer Cooking is broken down into several categories that include Beef,
    Breakfast, Dessert, Main Dishes, Chicken, No Thawing Required, Pasta,
    Pork, and more.

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