The main reason Dean Pollak loves gumbo so much is that it allows her to use the large silver spoons her good friend Father Ralston gave her to remember him. She serves the delicious dish at Thanksgiving, which is Dean Pollak’s favorite holiday (she didn’t celebrate it growing up in Africa). The Sunday after Thanksgiving, she starts strategizing for next year’s holiday. A trick she can put up your sleeve is to start making gumbo a month before Thanksgiving. With the gumbo waiting in the freezer and the silver polished, you have a stress-free party ready to go weeks ahead of time.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup flour
1 whole chicken
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 cup diced celery, plus chopped leafy tops from1 bunch celery
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons coarse salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon gumbo filé
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ pound bacon, coarsely chopped
1 pound smoked andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
One 16-ounce can tomato puree
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
Cooked rice and cornbread, for serving
Make the roux: Place the oil and flour in a small saucepan and whisk over medium heat to combine. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns a very dark color, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the roux to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature, then drain the excess oil. (The roux can be made ahead and refrigerated for 24 hours.)
Place the chicken, yellow onion, celery tops, and bay leaf into a large stockpot. Cover with water, add the salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender and the water is infused with flavor, about 1 hour. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let cool. Strain the stock into a large measuring cup and reserve (if needed, stir in enough water to make 4½ cups.) When the chicken is cool enough to handle, strip the meat from the bones and shred into large pieces. Wipe out the stockpot and reserve.
In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green pepper, diced celery and red onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften and color slightly, 12 to 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the crushed, white and black peppers, the filé and thyme; sprinkle over the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes. Mix in the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.
In a large saucepan, heat the reserved stock over medium heat. Place the roux in the reserved stockpot. Whisk ¼ cup of the warm stock into the roux until it forms a smooth paste. Add the remaining stock, along with the vegetables, stirring well to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and add the sausage to the same skillet. Cook for a few minutes.
Add the tomato puree, bacon and sausage to the stockpot. Simmer until the gumbo is thick, about 30 minutes. Add the chicken. (The gumbo can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 3 weeks.)
Stir in the shrimp, if using, and cook until pink, about 15 minutes. Serve over rice and cornbread.