Chef and owner Darnell Reed of Luella's Southern Kitchen grew up eating gumbo. Reed's great grandmother, Luella, the restaurant's namesake, was responsible for preparing this dish for his family throughout his childhood.
The version that he prepares at his Bib Gourmand-designated restaurant is the result of a combination of influences, "From Luella’s to Commander's Palace in Louisiana, to watching Justin Wilson on channel 11 as a kid," Reed shares over email. "I developed my own recipe based off the flavor profiles in my memory and my knowledge of Southern cooking."
What sets Reed's gumbo recipe apart from the rest is a roux that's cooked for five hours:
"The idea of the roux came about from remembering reading Thomas Keller's 'Bouchon' and the chef explaining the reason you want to take your time when caramelizing onions: making sure to caramelize the entire onion throughout instead of only the exterior, which happens when rushing. I wanted to know how all-purpose flour would work if you treated it the same way, and I knew that this way I could use butter without fear of burning it, which would once again separate our gumbo from others. Most others use oil instead of butter for fear of it burning, but they lose the flavor that the butter adds to the finished product. So low and slow it is."
Taking it a step further, Reed serves his gumbo over Carolina Gold rice, an heirloom long-grain variety that Southern cooks swear by. The result is a dish that has become a standout at the Southern restaurant. Per inspectors, "Every spoonful of Luella's andouille and chicken gumbo is one to remember."
Chicken Gumbo RecipeCourtesy of chef/owner Darnell Reed, Luella's Southern Kitchen, Chicago
Yield: 8 quarts
24 ounces butter
24 ounces all-purpose flour
26 ounces andouille sausage, sliced
24 ounces celery, diced small
24 ounces onion, diced small
24 ounces green bell pepper, diced small
12 ounces crushed tomatoes
50 ounces chicken thigh meat, diced
3 quarts chicken stock
3 quarts beef stock
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
3 ounces roasted garlic, chopped
9 ounces hot sauce
½ ounce filé powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cooked Carolina Gold rice, for serving
1. Place a heavy saucepan on the flat top on the normal setting and melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flour has the fragrance of roasted peanuts and the color of cinnamon sticks, at least 5 hours. (Note: The flour will also begin to liquify.)
3. Move to the stovetop and over high heat, whisking steadily; when you see the flour simmering, add the sausage, celery, onion and bell pepper, and cook until the vegetables are soft. Stir with a serving spoon, scraping the corners so they don't burn. Also scrape the bottom with a metal spatula, if necessary.
4. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir until combined.
5. Add the diced chicken, stocks, bay leaves, thyme, basil, oregano and roasted garlic, and let simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes.
6. Add the hot sauce and filé powder, and let simmer 3 to 5 minutes more. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve over some Carolina Gold rice.
Photos courtesy of Luella's Southern Kitchen.