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Esquire Magazine

ESQUIRE’S TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY GUMBO:
SOMETHING TO KEEP ON THE STOVE WHEN PEOPLE ARE HANGING AROUND YOUR HOUSE THIS WINTER, COURTESY OF A FIFTH-GENERATION CAJUN
AS TOLD BY FRANCINE MAROUKIAN

Although it varies from cook to cook, gumbo is south Louisiana’s signature dish – a complex stew pot thickened by a roux, a mixture of fat and flour that’s carefully cooked into a paste with color ranging from blond to dark brown, depending on what’s going into the pot. When I was growing up, we had chicken-and-sausage gumbo or seafood gumbo, but it was rare to find a combination of the two – probably because the smoked sausage there can be a bit overpowering. However, in this gumbo made with chicken, shrimp and tasso – spicy smoked pork that’s a staple of south Louisiana cooking – the three ingredients complement one another because the distinctive flavor of tasso provides good balance, keeping the shrimp and chicken on an even playing field. Maybe you’ve heard that only little old ladies in Louisiana know how to make a roux. That’s not totally true. But it does take care and attention. I generally make my roux somewhat lighter for gumbos that have seafood in them because it helps the flavor stand out, but even a lighter roux requires vigilance and constant whisking. One little bit of flour stuck in the bottom of the pot can burn, screwing up the flavor of the whole gumbo. Just remember to whisk slowly. They call roux “Cajun napalm” for good reason: If a flying drop lands on your skin, it’ll give you a good sizzle. That shit hurts. – CHEF DONALD LINK