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And so the most important ingredient in this recipe is leftover red beans. And by leftover, I mean prepared red beans. You can’t make this recipe with any type of whole or fresh beans. How much red beans? However much you have left. In a perfect world, I'd say somewhere around 25 oz of red beans. Maybe you have more, maybe you have less. The less you have the less "red bean-y" and more "gumbo-y" it'll be but that's no big deal.
Want to make this recipe but you don't have leftover red beans? Feel free to use a large can of Blue Runner brand red beans. Can't find a can of Blue Runner brand red beans where you live? Go to the nearest Popeyes and order 2 - 3 large red beans without any rice. No Popeyes near you? I'm so sorry to hear that.
You'll want to make sure your red beans are very, very creamy for this. If you're using Blue Runners or Popeyes red beans, you're probably fine. If you're using your own red beans and there are still a lot of whole beans, maybe give it a few mashes with a potato masher. Reheat and set to the side, we'll get to it later.
Now onto the gumbo portion on the red bean gumbo, and that means it's time to start your roux, cher. In a large, heavy-bottom pot, heat ¾ cup of vegetable oil. Why vegetable oil? Because it cooks the roux evenly. Once heated at ¾ cup of flour and whisk it into the oil. Once combined, switch to a wooden spoon and stir, stir, stir. There's a reason people say to never walk away from a roux. It. Will. Burn.
Not too experienced cooking a roux? Try lowering the heat. You'll be stirring all day, but you'll have more control. If you're impatient like me, turn up the fire and hold on tight.
"But I saw Alton Brown cook a roux in the oven!" Yeah well, I ain't ever seen Mémère use an oven to cook a roux.
I typically love a really dark roux gumbo, but not for red bean gumbo. So, I'll typically take my roux to milk chocolate in color or just a hair beyond. Once your roux is there, add your onion, bell pepper, and celery. Like in my red bean recipe, I like a 2-1-1 onion to bell pepper to celery ratio. Make sure to finely dice your celery. Nobody likes big chunks of celery in their gumbo.
Cook until the onions are translucent in color. Then stir in your garlic until fragrant (30 seconds to a minute) and slowly start incorporating warmed chicken stock. If you add your stock in cold or if you add too much at once, it'll separate from the roux.
Once your stock is incorporated, bring to a gentle boil and add in your leftover red beans and all seasonings (minus the salt). The red beans are the main flavoring component of this dish. They're what should shine through so seasonings are kept simple, intended to enhance the red bean flavor, not overpower it. My seasonings include bay leaf, cayenne, black pepper, thyme, and just a bit of an all-purpose Cajun seasoning (Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic is my personal favorite).
Bring to a simmer. In a separate pan, sear your sliced sausage or andouille before adding it to the pot.
As the gumbo simmers, water will need to be added to thin. The red beans will naturally thicken the gumbo and so how much water you need to add will be determined by the amount of red beans you include. Typically it'll be anywhere between 1-3 cups of water, but it could need more. Add ½-1 cup of water at a time and allow to simmer for a bit before adding more. I personally like my red bean gumbo to have a bit of body, enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.
Now you could stop right here, let the gumbo simmer for three or so hours, then salt and adjust your seasonings to taste.
However, any good gumbo should really have at least two different proteins. And like my red beans, I think red bean gumbo works best with a nice smokey flavor profile. Momma’s go-to was smoked turkey necks, an ingredient that is common to find in South Louisiana grocery stores. Here’s how to incorporate them:
First, rinse them off. Smoked turkey necks may have fine bits of bone dust from when they were cut so you want to rise these off well. Place in a pot, cover with water and simmer for an hour. Carefully strain your stock. You want to make sure there are no bits of bone or bone dust in the stock. Feel free to use this smoked turkey neck stock in place of water in the recipe above.
Next, rinse off your turkey necks again. Then carefully remove the meat from the bones. Turkey necks have a lot of small bones in them that you do not want in your gumbo. Rinse your turkey neck meat one last time before adding them to your gumbo to simmer.
As you can see, smoked turkey necks can be a bit of a hassle to deal with, but it is worth it in my opinion. Don’t want to bother?
Chicken is always a great alternative, especially smoked chicken. Feel free to also try smoked ham hock or shank.
So About those Eggs:
So you’ve added all your proteins, you’ve simmered for a few hours (the longer the better), and you’ve adjusted all your seasonings. Well, there’s one last possible step. You see, back in the day, many Cajun families may not have always had access to things like smoked sausage or andouille or the glut of choices we have today. Remember, this recipe was about making do with what you had and something most Cajun families had readily available was eggs. Just tell the kids to go and grab you a few eggs from the hen house and poach them right into the gumbo. Each member of the family would get one egg. That’s how Pawpaw had it growing up and that’s still how we do it today.
So once you’re ready to serve, bring your gumbo back up to a rolling boil, give it a good stir and crack your eggs right into the pot, allowing them to poach in the gumbo. Be sure to add one for each person you are serving. Once the egg is fully poached, remove your gumbo from the heat and serve over rice.
Ça c’est bon!