Back in December of 2005, the year that Hurricane Katrina hit, I took a group of the most terrific people I know, which included my comrades from New Jersey 101.5, The Rock and Roll Music Fund and some great volunteers, down to the Gulf Coast.

We loaded up over 80,000 toys, thanks to the generosity of the people of New Jersey. We drove those toys and supplies down to the Gulf Coast and distributed them to the children and families of the devastated area.

It was a life changing experience for us all as we witnessed the destruction firsthand. It was indescribable and forever burned in our minds. One of the many positive and heart-warming experiences that came out of our trip was the hospitality of the locals of Luling, Louisiana who showed up at a big event where Santa (me!) and elves (New Jersey 101.5 staff and volunteers) distributed many toys.

We were fed like kings there with a massive pot of homemade gumbo. Everyone was saying that I had to have the gumbo. Well, after the event and once out of my Santa suit I headed over to the mess tent and I talked with Mabel, who was stirring this big pot of gumbo with an oar, yeah, an oar, just like one you’d use to row a boat!

After my third bowl of gumbo and professing my undying love to her, she talked about the necessary patience, care and ingredients that make a good Louisiana gumbo. This is my tribute to Mabel and the great people of the Gulf Coast. I hope that I did her proud.

There’s not a time when I make this that I don’t think of Mabel and our trip down to the Gulf Coast. I hope you all enjoy!


3-4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
5 large chicken thighs (skin and bone removed, cut into large chunks)
1 ½ pounds andouille sausage, cut into ¼ inch rounds
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup flour
2 ½ cups yellow onion (Vidalia or sweet), diced
1 cup green pepper, diced
1 ½ cups celery, diced
7 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 ½ quarts chicken stock or broth (I prefer stock)
¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon oregano
2 dashes hot sauce
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 ½ tablespoons basil leaves, freshly chopped
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups frozen okra
2 pounds med/large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

How to put it together:

In a large Dutch oven pan heat the oil over med-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and sausage and sauté until brown.

After browning meat remove from pan and set aside on paper towel. Towel out Dutch oven clean. Still with heat on med -high, add butter, melt and then whisk in flour a little at a time until roux is thick with smooth consistency. Cook roux until a light-medium brown, stirring constantly. Be patient and don’t burn. If you burn roux, you must start over again.

After roux is cooked and while warm, add the onions, peppers and celery. Cook for about 6 minutes, then add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes more. Start to slowly add the chicken stock, whisking mixture constantly so that lumps do not form.

Once all the stock is in the pan then add sausage and chicken to pan. Stir, add Worcestershire Sauce, cayenne, paprika, oregano, hot sauce, thyme, basil, bay leaves salt and pepper. Bring gumbo to a boil, uncovered, and then simmer for an hour. You may have to simmer longer if the flavor of the roux is still present since you don’t want a flour taste. The roux should be reduced. Add okra and simmer for another hour.

After gumbo has cooked add shrimp and parsley 10 minutes before serving and stir. Remove two bay leaves before serving. Serve in big bowls over steamed rice.

Serves 8 - 10.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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