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Uncle John’s Gumbo

Rick Sadle updates us on one of his found memories in Louisiana.

“WHO’S THERE?” shouted Uncle John Hooks as his shotgun swung up toward the little motorboat his nephew Steve and I were in. Steve hits the deck and shouts “DON’T SHOOT UNCLE JOHN, DON’T SHOOT, IT’S STEVE!” Ten minutes later, after some delicate negotiations, long pauses and overcoming my strong desire to turn tail and run, I found myself in a little two room ramshackle shack perched on a small island of solid ground deep in the Atchafalaya swamps near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana during the yearly Crawfish Festival. A drunken offer to let me learn to make Gumbo from areal Cajun master paid off with this recipe, several more beers and some whispered secrets from Uncle John who always keep his shotgun and a couple of beers close at hand.

Uncle John’s Secrets to a great gumbo: Get a good fresh hen chicken and a lot of beer!

“You put beer in Gumbo?” I asked innocently. “Hell No, you DRINK the beer” he says sounding a little disgusted that he has to deal with this west coast greenhorn. “The beers what keeps you puttin’ the red pepper in, long after you shouda stopped. And if the rest of ‘em drink enough of it, the damn fools‘ll eat it anyway.”

“No matter what anybody tells you, you caint never use too many onions.” But you damn sure can use to few, so go big, go big!

Don’t never rush the roux! This one is key. Low heat, lots of slow stirring and cook it until it’s a nutty brown. Uncle John showed me his leathered old brown belt and told me to stand there and stir until the roux was “jest as brown at that.”
Laissez le bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)

Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo


1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 cans (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth
1 lb. boneless,skinless chicken thighs
1/2 lb. chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled & deveined
1 cup long grain rice, cooked as directed on the package


In a large soup pot, heat oil over med-low heat. Gradually stir in flour, and cook, stirring, until mixture is dark brown ~ about 15 minutes. Mix the broth in slowly and blend until smooth. At the same time you start the roux start to cook the vegetables: In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat until hot.Add celery, garlic, green pepper, and onion and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. To the roux-thickened broth add the stewed tomatoes, chicken, chorizo, herbs, salt, black pepper and the vegetables. Add 4 cups of dark beer or water and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 40 minutes. Skim off any fat that comes to the surface. Add the shrimp and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the shrimp turn opaque.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on September 2, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    So… where’s the red pepper?