I have seen articles claiming that it is now "cheaper to eat out than to cook". That is simply not true, and this recipe is a great example. While the McDonald's "Dollar Menu" may have a lot of $1 items on it, you are not going to be able to feed yourself for $1. But I cooked this recipe at home, and we enjoyed real comfort food for a total cost of about one dollar per person for the entire meal.
In the days before fast food, people had shortcuts they used to make it easier to get dinner on the table. One of those tricks was to make up some things for the week in advance. My first mother in law made tortillas fresh every morning, but she cooked one pot of beans on Monday, put it in the fridge and dipped out of it each day to make frijoles refritos. Many Louisiana cooks made up several days' worth of roux at one time, saving themselves about half an hour of stirring at the stove each day.
A trick we had not seen before is to brown flour in the oven to use as a base for the roux. I tried this and when I put it into the hot oil, it browned up beautifully in about 5 minutes. Wow. This gumbo turned out great, and only required about an hour to make. Paul gave it two thumbs up. Ethan and Chelsey left the rodeo to come get a second bowl to take back and eat in the stands! So without further ado, here's the recipe. And below the recipe is a breakdown of the cost.
How to Make Browned Flour:
Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and sprinkle two cups of white flour over it evenly. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. It won't look very dark but it is done by then. Remove from oven and cool. Break up any clumps with a fork or sifter. Store in a jar until ready to use.
Quick Chicken and Sausage Gumbo Recipe
1/2 cup of bacon grease, shortening or cooking oil
3/4 cup to 1 cup of browned flour
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 cup of chopped celery
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 to 2 quarts of water
1 pound german sausage, sliced and browned
1 rotissery chicken, removed from bone and chopped (or 1 to 2 pounds cooked chicken)
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Thyme
1 1/2 pounds sliced okra, fresh or frozen (two 12 oz bags if frozen)
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups dry white rice, cooked
Creole Seasoning or Hot Pepper Sauce
If you use a rice cooker, get it ready with the two cups of rice and turn it on now. Mine requires 51 minutes to cook that amount of rice, and it holds it hot for a good half hour. Don't be tempted to cook the rice in with the gumbo - it will turn into a goopy mess. The rice must be cooked and stored separately.
Have vegetables chopped before starting on the roux. Also, make sure the little ones are safely occupied somewhere out of the kitchen during this first phase so that you won't have to stop stirring until it is done.
Heat grease or oil in a deep pot, then stir in browned flour. Cook on high and stir constantly until the mixture is a rich caramel color. Don't turn your back and don't stop stirring! This took me about 5 minutes.
When the color is right, put the onions, pepper and celery in and stir it all together. It will be thick and clump up. That is ok, don't add liquid yet, let it cook for about 3 minutes.
When onions and pepper have softened up, after 3 minutes or so, slowly add a quart of water and use a whisk to incorporate the flour mixture well.
Add Bay Leaf, Garlic, and Thyme. DO NOT SALT - the Tony Chachere's and other creole seasonings have salt in them and can be added at the table to taste. Of course you can season while cooking if all of your bunch like it hot, but sadly I can't handle the heat, so our hot peppers get added at the table.
Brown the sliced sausage in a skillet and pour it and the pan drippings into the gumbo. Add the coarsely chopped, cooked chicken.
Bring a quart of water to a boil in a kettle or pan and add it to the mixture. Cover with lid ajar and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add Okra, frozen or fresh, return to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Now add the canned tomatoes and their liquid. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until rice is done.
To serve: Put 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup rice in each bowl, and ladle gumbo over it. C'est Bon!
It is even better the next day. This batch of Gumbo made about 15 big servings, and cost less than a dollar per person.
Here is how I managed that:
I could have reduced the cost even more if I had cooked my own chicken, but I wanted this recipe to save time as well as money. Most of us can manage an hour after work to cook dinner, and knowing we don't have to cook a chicken makes the prospect much more appealing.
I buy rotisserie roasted chickens at our grocery store when they are on sale and use them for things like this. This small one cost $5 and weighed about 2 pounds. You can either use all the meat in this gumbo, or use the dark meat and bits in the gumbo and save the breast to make chicken salad for a nice lunch.
The sausage was on sale. In this case, Eddy Brand, a regional Texas brand, was $2.50 for the one pound link of either all beef or beef/pork (I won't buy sausage with chicken in it). This is a great way to use leftover sausage after a cookout, too.
Bell peppers are expensive! But they are still perfect for cooking with even if they are starting to get a little wrinkled. I watch for them in the "reduced" bin, cut them in half and remove the seeds, then put them in a baggie and pop them straight into the freezer. Pull them out as needed and chop while still frozen.
So this whole large bell pepper cost 50 cents.
Frozen okra, store brand, was $1.00 per 12 oz package at regular price and I used two bags . I figure about 50 cents worth of onions, a quarter for celery, 80 cents per can of tomatoes, maybe a dollar's worth of rice, and 50 cents for oil and flour. We fed six adults supper with no extra courses or accompanying dishes, two more bowls for Ethan and Chelsey later that night, supper for me and Paul with seconds the next day, and I finished it off last night.
Altogether, it cost about $14 to make, and we got 15 meals out of it. Nothing beats homemade in price OR flavor!