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Jul 7, 2015
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WINE WITH…Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo is pretty easy to make--it’s deciding what goes into it that can be tricky, for this is one of those esoteric regional dishes that elicits fiercely held opinions and separates people into two, or possibly three, different camps. The first decision you face is relatively simple: Is your gumbo going to be made with shrimp, scallops, chicken or sausage…or some combination of the above? Once that question has been answered it’s time to zero in on which time-honored technique you’ll use to thicken your stew.

Many folks in Louisiana insist that filé, a powder made from the dried and pulverized leaves of the North American sassafras tree, is the authentic way to go. Others believe that unless the gumbo includes okra as a thickener it isn’t really gumbo. And then there are the proponents of roux (pronounced, “roo”), an emulsion of fat and flour that is used to thicken all manner stews, including gumbo.

Since simplicity is generally a virtue in our kitchen, we don’t use filé (which is easy to find in Cajun markets, but not so much in other regions), or okra (which too many people dislike, and which is rarely available fresh in most places). Roux, however, calls for ingredients that are staples in every kitchen. Some cooks use vegetable oil for the fat, others butter (preferably clarified butter or ghee), while bacon grease also has its partisans. We like a combination of olive oil and butter--unless, of course, we had bacon for breakfast earlier in the day.

Like all stews, gumbo is best when made a day or two ahead. And it’s almost always served with rice.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup white wine (or water)
2 cups diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
8 ounces Andouille or chorizo sausage, cut in slices
About 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onion, green pepper and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and pepper have softened. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking for another minute or two. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables to a bowl and reserve them.

Add the butter to the remaining oil in the pot, and when it has melted and is foamy whisk in the flour, adding it all at once. Lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to brown, about 10 minutes or so (adjust the heat accordingly to keep it from burning). Whisk in the wine (or water) and cook until it is reduced by about half. Put the reserved vegetables back in the pot and stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Add the thyme and cayenne, and simmer about 15 minutes; then add the sausage and chicken thighs. Cover the pot and simmer the gumbo about 40 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred it coarsely with a fork; then return it to the pot. Refrigerate the gumbo until ready to reheat and serve.

To serve, skim any congealed fat off the top of the gumbo with a spoon and discard it. Reheat the gumbo and serve it over rice.

* * *

We were unsure what sort of wine would pair well with gumbo. The skinless chicken seems to call for a white, while the sausage seems better suited to a red. Then there’s the dish’s inherent heat. It’s spicy, though not excessively so, and in our experience spicy heat can make for a tricky wine match. To our surprise, then, we found that a good number of wines worked just fine. Reds were slightly better, but there was nothing wrong with the whites we tried—particularly those that showed some sweetness. Delicate reds (an Oregon Pinot Noir, for example) could easily be overmatched by the spice in the dish, so if you go the red route, choose a wine with enough stuffing to hold its own. The ones we’re recommending did just that.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Avignonesi, Montepulciano (Italy) Rosso di Montepulciano 2012

(Imported by Tabaccaia USA)

$19

Beautifully balanced, with both fresh and dried fruit flavors and a whiff of Tuscan dust, this wine married especially well with the spicy sausage in our gumbo. Medium-bodied, its supple texture did not get in the way of the heat in the dish.

Bonny Doon, Monterey County (California) Grenache “Clos de Gilroy” 2014

$20

A solid wine with plumy fruit flavors and just a hint of Rhône-like earth, this wine is soft and silky, with just enough stuffing to strut its stuff alongside the gumbo.

Epic A, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2013

(Imported by Shaw-Ross)

$16

Though it showed a quite different flavor profile, being richer and riper, this wine, like the Bonny Doon Grenache, enticed us with its smooth, supple texture.

Giesen, Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Gris 2014

(Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits)

$14

The one white wine we are recommending, this Pinot Gris tastes rich and ever so slightly sweet, with a hint of honey in its finish. That sweetness allowed it to harmonize well with the piquant dish.

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Old Vine Premier” 2012

$20

Powerful but in no sense a blockbuster, this Zin shows the advantage of old vines—deep flavors without excessive alcohol. Its briary character echoed the peppery gumbo very nicely.