Dad's "Tick" Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
Gumbo is very personal dish. Every self-respecting Louisianan can name their favorite gumbo on the spot. Not only that, but most likely they can also name the cook of their favorite gumbo too. And you best bet it’s made by one of their family members (I recommend starting with Grannys and MiMis then work your way down.)
That is why you won’t find a lot of Louisianans sourcing a restaurant as their favorite. Gumbo is the official dish of Louisiana, and it was originally created inside the homes of Louisiana families, so it only makes sense that the recipes vary from home to home. It can also evolve and change over time as it’s passed down through generations. But that’s the beauty of gumbo: every pot tells a different story.
There are several types of gumbo: seafood, chicken and sausage, creole, okra, etc. In the Granger household, my dad’s chicken and sausage gumbo is King. My dad makes it thick, smoky and spicy. Actually, it’s pronounced, “tick,” not “thick.” He’ll correct you if you say it wrong. "You gotta get dat roux nice and tick now, sha."
I always thought gumbo was extremely difficult and complex to make. I’ve watched my dad make countless pots over the years, and never has it been something he just decides to "whip up." No…this always seemed to be an all-day affair. How intimidating, right?!
I’m usually allergic to complicated and complex recipes. If it’s not simple, I don’t make it. Here’s the thing though: I learned that making gumbo is time-consuming…but it's actually quite SIMPLE! Hooray, gumbo for all!
Once you gather all of your ingredients (which can sometimes be the hardest part), the recipe below is simple, yet it requires a lot of love and devotion. This ain’t no set-it-and-leave-it crock pot creation!
I’m not here to tell you this is the best gumbo recipe (it is though). I’m here to share our family recipe in hopes that you can bring some of that Louisiana love and soul into your home.
I also encourage you to add or take out your own ingredients, make it your own (but not too different--remember that Disney gumbo recipe fiasco?) Play with the spice levels, the kind of sausage and the amount of meat. Try seafood gumbo too. The thickness, however, is off limits. Ain't nobody want your thin soupy roux! Once you've mastered making this amount of gumbo, then you can practice scaling up for really big parties. Trust me, you will want to show off these gumbo skills!
Important tip before we get started: if you’re making this for a large group of people (which you should be because it serves 8+ people--and also eating from a giant pot of gumbo alone is really depressing to think about) I highly recommend asking one of your guests to make a homemade potato salad. I’m sure you have that one friend who always asks what he/she can bring. This will allow you to devote your precious time to the pot of gumbo. And if you must make your own potato salad, make it the day before and chill it over night.
Side note: It’s a southern Louisiana tradition to eat your gumbo with potato salad--and for us real down home Louisianans, we just plop it right into our bowls! That’s my style anyway. You do whatcha wanna with your bowl;)
So here we go, here’s my Dad's "Tick" Chicken and Sausage Gumbo:
Serves 8-10 people
Prep time: 30 min
Total time: 4 hours...ish
Be prepared to hover over the pot for about a solid hour while you add all of the ingredients and make sure the roux is dissolved. Then you get to put a lid on it and let it cook for 2 hours.
- 1 16oz. jar of Kary’s Roux
- 3-4 links of smoked sausage, chopped
(Opt for one that has green onions in it if possible. Sausage is best when bought fresh from a butcher or specialty meat shop.)
- 6-8 boneless & skinless chicken thighs, thawed and chopped into bite-size cubes
(Chicken thighs have more flavor than chicken breasts.)
- Rajun Cajun or Tony Chacheres or equivalent seasoning
- 2 chopped yellow onions
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Liquid Smoke (natural hickory)
(Only use if the sausage isn’t smoky enough.)
- 8 cups of white rice, cooked
- Saltines (optional)
- Potato Salad (optional & recipe coming soon!)
If you’re gasping at the sight of a store-bought roux, feel free to look up a homemade roux recipe—but be prepared to add another hour of hovering over the pot.
I asked my dad about the homemade vs. ready-made roux debate, and as always his answer was simple and straight forward. He said, “Well. I’ve made it from scratch before and the roux from the jar tastes just as good—and sometimes even better. With a roux, it’s real easy to mess up and it can easily burn. I just stick with the jar to make it easier. I’ve tried a lot, but Kary’s is my favorite.”
So take that as you will...this recipe is keeping it simple with a store-bought roux, and Kary's is our family favorite!
Tools you’ll need:
- 7.5 quart Magnalite pot (or equivalent sized pot)
- 8 cup Rice cooker
Prep work: about 45 minutes
- Chop your onions, parsley and green onions. An electric chopper can really save you some time here.
- Chop all of your sausage and chicken into bite-size pieces. De-fat the chicken thighs if you prefer. I usually do because there is a lot of fat on thighs and plenty left even after you trim it. Then again, Gumbo has never meant to be a healthy dish, so do whatcha wanna!
- Fill a little less than half the pot with water.
- Add 2 chopped onions, salt & pepper and Tony Chacheres seasoning. The seasoning is all "to taste"…just remember that you can always add more salt, but you can never take it away. Be conservative on seasoning this early and add on as you go. Then add seasoning later on to get it just spicy enough.
- Bring to a boil.
- Open the jar of roux and pour out most of the grease accumulated at the top (leave just a little to moisten it. It works similar to almond butter.)
- Add 2/3 of the jar of roux.
- Bring heat down to med/high after adding roux to the pot. The roux will start to foam at this point. Don’t let it foam over! Keep a close eye here and continue to stir the pot until the roux is “good and dissolved.” When the roux is dissolved, the foam should be gone. Glenn Granger's rule of thumb: "As long as there's foam, the roux isn't cooked enough."
- After the foam is gone, taste to see if the seasoning is right, and add more seasoning if needed. Also, it will most likely not be thick enough, so add some more roux at this point to “ticken” it up. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to complete adding the roux and waiting for it to dissolve. By the time I'm done with the jar there's just 1-2 centimeters left in the jar for this size pot.
- Add one cup of chopped parsley to the pot.
- One minute after adding the parsley, add the smoked sausage.
Pro tip: add the meat with a big ladle into the pot to avoid splashing.
- Add the chicken thighs.
- Add a little water if needed here. Always start slow and add as you go. If you add water or if the chicken has a little water in it, be sure to add more roux to maintain a thick consistency and add seasoning to taste. Be careful not to add water too quick if it’s getting full. If it starts to rise, slowly turn down and stir.
“Once I get all my ingredients in, I start drinking. If you start drinking too early, the gumbo might not come out like you want it.” – Glenn
- Once all ingredients are in (and a drink is in your hand), bring to medium heat if you are in a hurry and only have 1 hour or to low heat if you have 2-3 hours to let it stew. Cover the pot and let it cook for 1-3 hours, depending on your time alotted. If you have on medium heat, then you'll need to stay nearby the pot and stir it every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t boil over. If it does boil over, don't worry--this actually happens to me a lot because I'm juggling a lot in the kitchen. I just move it over to another burner and clean it up after its cooled.
- After 1-2 hours of cooking, taste it. If it doesn't have enough smoky flavor, add some liquid smoke (a little at a time until optimal smokiness is achieved.)
- When the chicken breast meat gets brown, the roux is cooked through and its done!
- 30 minutes before you're ready to eat, cook the rice.
- Add green onions about 15 minutes before serving and turn heat off or on low. We like to have extra chopped green onions on the side for garnish too.
- Grab a big bowl and a big spoon, then shovel about 3/4 cup of rice into the bowl, then drench it with gumbo. Top with extra green onions or potato salad if that's your thang!
- And finally, if roux, rice and potatoes aren't enough carbs for you, then serve with Saltine Crackers. I use them has chips and put all the goodness into one big bite. What? WINTER IS COMING, I need the extra padding!!
One last note. Gumbo is excellent the next day. Some even swear it's better on the second day! So don't worry if you make a big 'ol pot just for yourself or for just you and your partner. It will last through the week, and it even freezes well if needed. However, IMO, there's nothing better than a whole week of leftover gumbo in the winter!
Special thanks to my dad, Glenn Granger, for making this such a special treat and tradition for his family and friends over the decades! He's a special guy, that one.
What are your gumbo traditions? Do you have a different method that you swear by? I want to hear your thoughts and tips! And for those who are deciding to make your first pot of gumbo, I hope this recipe guides you well. Feel free to comment below with any questions!
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #SMYNRECIPES. I'd love to see what you cook!