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Before I moved up to the mountains, I helped a friend from culinary school with his ‘pop-up restaurant’ events.  It was so much fun, we spent the whole day making up a five course meal with wine pairings and served anywhere between 50 and 100 people.  My favorite event was, by far, his Mardi Gras menu!  We jammed out to blues all day to get into the mood and served up King Cakes, blackened catfish and, the pièce de résistance: smoked chicken gumbo with yellow rice, with a ‘lilly-pad’ of a sweet potato chip and a fried frog’s leg with a little scallion ‘cat-tail.’  Amazing taste and a ridiculously fun presentation.  Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with our food.

Unfortunately, I don’t own a smoker yet.  (‘Yet’ being the operative word.)  This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve that delicious, smoky flavor in your food though!  I used the smoke-roasting technique in my grill to smoke some chicken thighs.  I simply fired up my gas grill and made the nice little cross hatch marks on the chicken to par cook it, then moved the chicken thighs to the top rack and put some soaked cedar kindling on the bottom rack of the grill, closed the lid and let her go for 10 minutes.  Easy peasy!  After that, I kept the chicken in a warm oven for a few minutes to finish cooking it through.

Cast-iron cornbread!

In addition to this Smoked Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, I served some cornbread (from Alice Waters’ ‘The Art of Simple Food’) and yellow rice pilaf.  As I didn’t want to use the most expensive spice in the world, saffron, to make my rice yellow, I added a pinch of turmeric to my basic rice pilaf.

Bright, yellow rice, without breaking the bank!

Smoked Chicken and Andouille Gumbo– served with yellow rice and cornbread

serves 4 – cost approx $.73 per serving, cost approx $1.01 per serving including sides


  • 6 oz andouille sausage, 1/4 inch slice ($.75)
  • 2 Tbs bacon drippings (you could use all butter if you don’t have bacon fat like this crazy Southerner does…)
  • 2 Tbs butter ($.06)
  • 4-5 Tbs All Purpose flour
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 onion, medium dice ($.09)
  • 1 green bell pepper, medium dice ($.99)
  • 3 ribs celery, medium dice ($.21)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 cups smoked chicken, shredded – rotisserie chicken would be an excellent substitution ($.56)
  • salt – to taste
  • cayenne pepper – to taste
  • 1-2 tsp file powder
  • 2 Tbs parsley, minced

Heat a large pot to medium and brown up the sausage slices then remove them.  Next, add in the bacon grease and butter to melt and reduce the heat to medium low.  Add in the flour to make a roux.  For gumbo you want a rich brown roux, so stir frequently (you don’t have to stir constantly, but keep a watchful eye on it) for 10-15 minutes.  As you make your roux, you might scrape up little dark bits from the sausage, so don’t worry if there are little black specks in your roux.  However, if it looks and smells like the roux is burned, toss it out and try again.

Look for this rich brown color in your roux.

Add in the diced ‘trinity’ veggies to the roux with a pinch of salt.  Saute the vegetables in the roux for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.

Next, add in the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and Worcestershire sauce, and stir so that there are no roux lumps.  Let simmer for 20 minutes on low.  Add in the shredded chicken and sausage that you browned in the beginning and simmer another 15 minutes.  Check the seasonings and add salt and cayenne pepper to your liking.  Turn off the heat and let the gumbo sit for 5 minutes, then mix in the file powder and parsley and let sit another 5 minutes.  Now you’re ready to laissez les bons temps rouler!