One of my favorite family traditions is going to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (aka Jazz Fest), which celebrates the indigenous melting pot of music and culture from the region. The annual Jazz Fest incorporates all types of music, including Blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass, and jazz.
I attended amazing sets over the years, including but not limited to, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Stevie Wonder, The Revivalists, Big Freeda, Usher, Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, and Lake Street Dive.There’s a classic family story about how at age three, I ran away from my uncle to go dance at the front of the stage. What can I say, I have always loved live music!
Besides the fabulous music, Jazz Fest is famous for its amazing food. Mango Freeze, crawfish beignets, cochon de lait sandwiches, alligator sausage po’boy (sandwich), boiled crawfish, softshell crab po’boy, Cajun jambalaya, jalapeño bread, fried green tomatoes, Oyster patties, muffulettas, red beans and rice, and crawfish Monica. My personal favorite is the pheasant and andouille sausage gumbo with a local beer (shout out to Abita!)
The Jazz Fest tradition started because my mom lived in New Orleans in the 70s after she finished grad school. My uncle also moved out to New Orleans for law school, and they both attended the first Jazz Festival in 1970. My uncle had a great story about smoking a joint with Professor Longhair on the night he passed away, but I digress…
My mom learned a few classic dishes, and we grew up eating gumbo and barbeque shrimp. This year, we skipped our annual Jazz Fest trip (another COVID casualty), but my mom got us some traditional andouille sausage from Cochon Butcher for the holidays. So, there was only one thing to do – make some gumbo!
This recipe is what my mom made for us growing up, with a few changes. It makes a large batch, so you can make it for a crowd, plan to eat it for a few days, or freeze some of it for later.
2 green peppers, chopped
2 large yellow onions, diced
¼ cup parsley, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
Scant ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves
1 lb andouille sausage, diced into ½ inch cubes (if you can’t find andouille, try kielbasa but add some extra cayenne)
1 lb county ham/sausage, diced in ½ inch cubes
2 ½ lbs chicken legs (thighs & drumsticks), broken down
⅔ cup of vegetable oil
½ cup flour
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 cups of cold water
3 Tbsp filé powder
Prepare all ingredients before you start cooking. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Take out a baking sheet or oven-safe platter.
Put a large Dutch oven or soup pot on the stove over medium heat. Add vegetable oil to the pot, and warm until shimmering. Brown the chicken pieces in batches, about five minutes each side.
Place the browned chicken pieces on a baking sheet or platter and place in the oven until it is time to add to the gumbo.
Make the roux – Add the flour to the warm oil, stirring, until the mixture is hazelnut in color.
After making the roux, add the onions and green peppers. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring until the vegetables are soft.
Add the garlic, parsley, green onions, and thyme and cook for another three minutes. Add the sausage and stir again to mix. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, crushed bay leaves, and 8 cups of water. Stir to combine.
Take the chicken pieces out of the oven and add to the gumbo. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
After an hour, turn the heat off and let cool for five minutes before adding the file powder and mixing. Let the gumbo cool for another five minutes, then remove the chicken pieces. I like to remove the skin and shred the chicken before adding it back to the gumbo. You can also leave the chicken pieces whole.
Serve with boiled rice.