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This past week, I watched the weather like a child waiting for Christmas morning! A cold front was on the way – finally!  There is a local saying, “You wouldn’t want to be a chicken in South Louisiana when the first cold front of the season finally comes through”!   When the wind turns north and the temperatures drop below 50 degrees for the first time, there is a run on chickens at the local markets!  You can be sure, if you look in anyone’s basket, you will see some sort of makings for a gumbo…and for that first front, usually a chicken or hen and sausage.

Gumbo season always stirs up old debates on ingredients for gumbos – Chicken or Hen?  Sausage or Andouille?  Roux or Orkra…do you combine the two?  Roasted or Smoked Duck?  And like any good cajun lady, surely I have my opinions – all based on “family history”, of course…

Chicken or Hen – Use a chicken, if you are in a rush; On all other occasions, use a hen (yes, a tough old fat hen!)  Just plan on cooking the thing for hours and hours, but you can’t beat the flavor.

Sausage or Andouille – I like them both, but if you are cooking a duck gumbo – always use andouille!  Straight from my son’s mouth…

Roux or Okra…combine the two?  Never in my house!  I was brought up to believe that it was just about sacrilegious to mix roux and okra in a gumbo – generations of Arnauds and Millers (my mother’s family) have engrained this into my soul!  Now, I love Okra Gumbo as much as I love Roux Gumbo, just never add one to the other!  PERIOD.  (of course, that is in my house!  A lot of great cooks do combine both, I am just not one of them)

Roasted or Smoked Duck – I like both, just depends on time and what you are in the mood for!  Smoked is fantastic, but sometimes you just want the roasted flavor and to taste the wonderful gaminess of the duck.

Now, about that “Marathon”?  For the next week, I will be blogging about different types of gumbos – seven to be exact!  Yes, seven different gumbos in seven days…

Day One:  Hen, Sausage and Tasso Gumbo:

1 hen, cut into pieces

3 lbs of smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces (try to always use smoked sausage from South Louisiana – others just do not taste the same and tend to give the gumbo an “odd” flavor)

1 lb of Tasso, cut into very small pieces

1/4 cup canola oil

4 medium onions, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

2 cups celery, chopped

1 cup of dark roux – You can make your own using 1 cup canola oil and 1 cup of flour:  Blend in a large heavy pot and cook on medium high fire – stirring constantly (and I mean “constantly” because it gets very hot and can scorch easily!)  Continue stirring until it is deep dark copper-colored – takes about 45 minutes; Let cool slightly before using (make sure that you keep stirring occasionally while it is cooling down, because it will keep cooking) OR use any jar of prepared cajun roux

3 quarts of chicken stock


Heat oil in stock pot or other large heavy pot

Brown hen on medium high heat until all side are deep brown, turning often

Stir in smoked sausage and tasso and continue to brown for about another 30 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom of pot

Remove all meat onto a clean platter or tray

Add chopped vegetables to pot (with all drippings from meat remaining), scraping bottom often; cook for 15 minutes until onions are transparent

Add chicken stock and roux;  Bring to a boil, stirring, making sure that the roux has dissolved completely in stock

Return chicken, sausage and tasso to pot

Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a medium, low heat.

Cook until the big ole hen in tender!  (At least 2-4 hours)  Adding additional water as the gumbo cooks down – depends on how thick or soupy you want it to be…

Degrease the gumbo in the end – Very Important, because you will end up with a lot of fat floating on the top.  Remove as much as you can!

Serve with white rice, chopped green onions and crispy fresh bread…

Last night, I was asked by a close friend, “what would your last meal would be?”
At the time, I thought of so many things that I love and couldn’t pick just one dish.   But after cooking tonight, it’s easy…for sure – good old hen, sausage and tasso gumbo! Last meal? Would take my sweet time and do it up right….