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Prejean’s Famous Gumbo

May 18, 2010

Last weekend I headed down to New Orleans to see my parents who live there and to soak in some much needed southern time.  This involves feeling the warm air with a slight edge of humidity this time of year, smelling the Cajun seasonings in a restaurant while drinking an Abita beer, watching the enormous barges get pushed up the Mississippi river by their little tugboat, seeing the performers in the French Quarter entertain the crowds, and getting powder sugar from Café Du Monde’s beignets all over my clothes.   It was all divine and just what I needed.

Avery Island, Louisiana

Once a week my parents take a little field trip exploring the areas outside the city.  Sometimes they head up the Mississippi river to see all the old plantation homes and other times they might find their way to a far away restaurant they read about, but one of their favorite trips is to Avery Island in Louisiana’s famous bayou country.  Although this island may be more commonly known as the home of the popular Tabasco sauce, it is also the home of Jungle Gardens—a remarkably gorgeous park filled with Spanish moss covered trees, swamps, egrets, and alligators.

Avery Island, Louisiana

For me, the alligators were the most fun to see.  Before I let you think I am overly courageous, I should admit that the alligators in this park are all under five feet long.  Anything larger gets moved to less visited swamps in the area.  Nonetheless, it was exciting—if not a little scary—walking up to see the alligators close-up.  I mean, I was at least a little courageous, right?

Once we left Avery Island we then headed to Lafayette, passing by fields of sugar cane and small little towns.  I even saw one man sitting on his front porch playing his saxophone as the farmers were beginning to end their day.  I love seeing the countryside in Louisiana—it is still so rich in culture.  Time here just seems to pass by more slowly and take me back to an earlier era.

Avery Island, Louisiana

Our destination in Lafayette was Prejean’s, who are famous for their pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo served at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest.  My brother and his wife discovered this heavenly gumbo, and as a result my parents have now made Prejean’s one of their favorite stops on field trips in the area.  My dad excitably told me about their dinners there where Cajun bands play at night and diners step up from their tables to dance along the music.  It sounds just like how I romanticize the social scenes in these small towns out in the country.

Since we had other dinner plans, we were not dining in but picking up a gallon of their pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo to take home for a later night.  When the lady first brought out the gumbo, I immediately noticed how rich in color it was.  If the color was any indication of the richness in taste, then I knew this was going to be special and I was looking forward to trying it.

Finally on my last night in New Orleans, we had the gumbo and it was incredibly abundant in flavor.  The gaminess of the pheasant and quail mixed with the richly flavored broth was the perfect match.  Then coupled with the spiciness of the andouille sausage…well, that was just pure perfection.

The colorful windows that are typical in the French Quarter

A few days after I was back in New York, missing my time in New Orleans, my dad sent me the recipe for Prejean’s gumbo that he had found at Nola.com.  I could hardly wait for the weekend to roll around so that I could make this.

Now, the recipe calls for some ingredients that may be hard to find.  I don’t know about y’all, but I just don’t get to do much pheasant hunting in Central Park.  As a result, I had to make some substitutions.  I replaced the pheasant and quail with chicken thighs (you want dark meat that will more closely match the flavor of pheasant).  Duck meat would be an even better substitute, if you can find it.  I was unable to find Cajun smoked sausage, so I just added more andouille sausage instead.  Lastly, I was actually able to find Kitchen Bouquet (a browning and seasoning sauce found in the gravy products section at the market), but if you are unable to you can substitute this with worcestershire sauce.

I also want to discuss the dark roux with you.  This is the most important part of gumbo; and without a good, dark roux you just don’t have gumbo.  The dark roux gives the gumbo it’s color and rich flavor.  To achieve it, you must be patient—cooking it slowly over low heat and mixing constantly.  Once it reaches a deep, reddish brown color, it is ready.  Go here to see the progression of colors.  After you remove it from the heat it will then continue to darken to a rich brown the color of dark chocolate.  Be sure to taste it to ensure that it is not bitter or burned.  If it is, well, it’s back to the stove you go to make a new batch.

So here is the adapted recipe, using my substitutes to make it more user friendly (for the original recipe, you can find it here).  I also halved the recipe, but for a family you may want to double it back since this does take time to make and it would be nice to have for another meal.  Note that this tastes even better if you let it sit overnight refrigerated.  The recipe below makes 2.5 quarts.

  • 2 ½ tbsp butter
  • 2 ½ tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp corn oil
  • 6 oz andouille sausage, sliced into ¼ inch thick circles
  • 1/3 cup coarsely diced onion
  • ¼ cup coarsely diced bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely diced celery
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed (or 2 large skinless duck breasts)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 ¼ quarts concentrated chicken stock (you can start with 1 ¾ quarts and boil it down to 1 ¼ quarts to make it concentrated, or add a bouillon cube)
  • 1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet (or worchestershire sauce)
  • 2 dashes Tabasco
  • 1 ½ tbsp sliced green onion tops
  1. In a small skillet over medium low heat, add the butter and flour.  Stir constantly and thoroughly as color slowly depends in color and reaches a dark, reddish brown.  This process should take at the very least 20 minutes (mine took 40 minutes).  Remove from heat and pour into a container.  Set aside.  The color will continue to deepen to a dark, chocolate brown.  (Tidbit: You can make larger portions and freeze what you don’t need as a short cut for your next gumbo.)

    Left: Dark, reddish brown when finished on stove; Right: Dark, chocolate brown after removed from heat

  2. Heat corn oil to hot and maintain heat in a four-quart cast-iron or other heavy pot over medium-low heat.
  3. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, brown andouille sausage, then add to oil in the cast-iron pot. Repeat process with onion, bell pepper and celery, then chicken (or duck), sautéing each ingredient individually and transferring each ingredient to the cast-iron pot as it is browned.
  4. Add the paprika, black pepper, cayenne and bay leaf to the pot and stir. Mix in stock. Stir in roux until blended.
  5. Bring to a boil and cook 40 minutes, stirring attentively.
  6. Add Kitchen Bouquet (or worchestershire sauce), Tabasco and green onions and stir well. Simmer 5 minutes longer. 
  7. Pull out chicken (or duck) and with tongs and a fork (the meat will be too hot to handle with your fingers), shred the meat and add it back to the gumbo and mix.
  8. Serve hot alone or with white rice.

Cheers!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2010 11:00 pm

    Looks amazing and your photography is excellent!! Hugs from BHM.

  2. Carrie permalink
    May 19, 2010 8:22 am

    Your photos really are incredible. I especially love the windows in the French Quarter. Yet another recipe that I can’t wait to try! Sounds perfect for a lazy Sunday meal.

  3. gemma permalink
    June 3, 2010 8:29 pm

    Great pictures. Wow. Felt like I was back in New Orleans. Wish I had beignet sugar all over me!!
    xox

  4. June 12, 2010 8:29 am

    Thanks for the recipe! The pics looks very yummy! I am getting hungry while I am writing this comment!

  5. Laura permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:10 am

    Oh my gosh, I love this post!!

  6. Kelli permalink
    December 26, 2011 5:04 pm

    I was just getting ready to make New Year’s Gumbo later this week to age a day or two in the fridge. I couldn’t find my PreJean’s cookbook so I googled and found this. Thank you so much, the kids and husband wouldn’t be happy if we didn’t start our year off with PreJean’s gumbo and bread pudding.

  7. March 23, 2012 5:19 am

    Reblogged this on The Domestically Impaired Guide to the Retro Kitchen Arts and commented:
    When our oldest son was still an undergrad, he did a summer internship in Lafayette, LA. The hubs and I went to visit him during that summer and had the great priviledge of eating at Prejean’s Restaurant. While there, I purchased their cookbook and every fall, that son requests I make gumbo during football season. I make two kinds: chicken and sausage (for my husband) and duck and sausage for everyone else. This is the recipe with such great pictures – and it’s on a dead blog. I couldn’t see it go to waste and decided to reblog it in an attempt to save it. I cannot recommend this recipe enough! I make rice in the rice cooker at the same time and serve it. Then 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup gumbo go into Ziploc screw-top containers and into the freezer for work-day lunches. Fabulous!!

  8. March 23, 2012 8:06 am

    Your pictures look just like home to me. I love your recipe. I wonder if I could change the meats up though.

  9. August 6, 2012 8:45 pm

    Was at Prejean’s last week and had the chicken and sausage gumbo for the first time. HOOKED! I love love love it.

  10. Katrena permalink
    January 30, 2013 10:44 pm

    Tonight I made my FIRST gumbo ever following your adaptation of the Prejean’s recipe (their chicken and sausage is my favorite!). It came out fantastic! I used goose and andouille.

  11. DEAinATL permalink
    February 18, 2013 4:29 pm

    I’ve had Prejean’s quail pheasant andouille gumbo at the New Orleans Jazz Fest many times (well, every time, and I’ve been going for nearly 30 years). But last fall a friend of a friend gave me some beautiful dressed pheasant (the hardest of the ingredients to come by) so of course I looked up the recipe.

    A word of caution: much of the “Cajun andouille” sold around the country is much spicier/hotter than the real thing, reflecting, I think, a mistaken bias that Cajun food is spicy, so its sausage should be. I say that to say this: don’t add the black/white/cayenne pepper till the end so you can taste the (nearly) final result to determine if it needs additional heat.

    I like really dark roux but the darker it is the less thickening power it has (the heat causes proteins in the flour to denature). Since I’m also looking for thickening, I use a little more flour than oil and make a little more roux than the recipe says. Dark roux is about a two Abita task, slow and low (any black flecks mean that a portion burned, which will taste nasty, so go slow).

    Duck would be better than chicken but it less available and much more expensive, but I’d save the duck breast and use the legs/thighs. OTOH Worstershire is a very poor substitute for Kitchen Magic – find it or another “browning” or do without.

    Many people find bell pepper to be hard to digest. If your roast it first under the broiler then remove the skin this problem is largely alleviated.

    One more tip:after the roux is very dark put the onions directly into the roux, they will carmelize and turn the roux from milk chocholate to bittersweet in color.

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