Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A satisfying gumbo for chilly nights, just the recipe to celebrate Mardi Gras, with chicken thighs, sausage, shrimp and veggies.


With a bag full of okra in my refrigerator, it was time to make gumbo. I’ve never cooked with okra. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten much okra. Maybe I had fried okra once. I’ve always been a bit put off by its mucilaginous nature.

Now there’s a word, huh? How often do you get to say mucilaginous? And that reminds me of a line from Elle Driver in Kill Bill: Vol. 2, one of my favorite movies. She says to Budd, as he writhes in pain from the fatal bites of a black mamba she had concealed in a briefcase of money:

“The amount of venom that can be delivered from a single bite can be gargantuan. You know, I’ve always liked that word “gargantuan.” I so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence.”

I so rarely have the opportunity to use the word “mucilaginous” in a sentence.

Back to okra. I ended up with a bag of okra thanks to Jim’s brother and sister-in-law, organic farmers about an hour and a half from here. We’re also enjoying their beautiful big eggs too. I used some of the okra in this gumbo, more in a curry recipe that I’ll post next week and the rest is chopped up in the freezer for future gumbo.

This is a lower fat version of gumbo from Cooking Light. Instead of the usual andouille, it calls for chicken or turkey sausage. I used turkey kielbasa because I couldn’t find a spicier option. An advantage to using okra for stews is that it’s a natural thickening agent. And, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t notice any slime in my bowl of gumbo.

The gumbo must be good because Jim had three bowls. It tastes even better the next day and the day after that.

Update: Why be modest, this gumbo is DAMN good.

Sausage, Shrimp, Chicken & Okra Gumbo | Grabbing the Gusto

Sausage, Shrimp, Chicken & Okra Gumbo | Grabbing the Gusto

Good for You Gumbo

You’ll need large pot or Dutch oven with lid and a whisk.

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound (or more) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 pound andouille (chicken, turkey or pork), Portuguese chourico or linguica, smoked sausage or kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (or good ol’ pork andouille that, honestly, will take your gumbo to higher heights — the magic of the pig)
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 1 very large onion)
  • 1 cup chopped green bell, poblano or corno di toro pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 large stalk)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground red pepper, depending on your heat preference
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth, depending on your soupy preference
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups (1/2-inch) slices fresh okra
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in bite-sized pieces – buy American only, don’t support Asian slave labor!
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups hot cooked long-grain or brown rice (2 cups water, 1 cup rice)

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil and let it heat up. Add chicken and sausage, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan (leave drippings in pan). Add onion, bell pepper and celery to pan, and cook 4 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and red pepper, and cook 4 minutes or until onion is tender and garlic is fragrant. Remove everything from the pan.

Reduce heat to medium. Add 3 tablespoons oil to pan. Add flour, stirring with a whisk so it absorbs all the oil. Cook 10 minutes or until roux is light brown, whisking constantly.

Because I have an electric stove, the heat varies — it’s burning red, then nothing. Things tend to burn unless I shuffle the pot on and off the burner. I had a lot of dark goodness on the bottom of my pot from the meat and the vegetables, so my roux was tan from the beginning. I waited until it changed consistency, less than 10 minutes. On a gas stove, it might be different.

Gradually add the broth, keep whisking. Add back the chicken, sausage, onion mixture, tomatoes, okra and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in parsley and shrimp; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Discard bay leaves. Taste for seasoning. Serve over rice. I like to shake some Texas Pete onto my bowl. Despite his name, Pete’s from Winston-Salem, NC. He’s welcome in my kitchen any time.

Original recipe: Crescent City Gumbo, Cooking Light,  May 2005

3 thoughts on “Damn, It’s Good, and Good for You Too, Gumbo

    1. deirdrereid says:

      It was, again and again and again. 🙂

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