Oyster and Chicken Gumbo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    4

    Main-Course

Appears in

Splendid Soups

Splendid Soups

By James Peterson

Published 2000

  • About

What I love about this recipe, which is based on a recipe from The Picayune Creole Cook Book (1928), is that it’s relatively simple, so the flavor of the oysters isn’t lost among too many other ingredients. Except for the chili pepper, this dish is almost identical to a dish popular in France in the 18th century.

You can serve this soup in two ways. The easiest—best for a main course—is just to give everyone a whole piece of chicken surrounded by the oysters and creamy broth. If you want to serve something lighter as a first course, you’ll have to take the chicken off the bone, cut it into cubes, and serve it in the broth.

If you’re serving chicken and oyster gumbo as a first course, it can be made a day or two in advance and reheated—just be careful not to boil it, or the oysters will toughen.

Ingredients

  • 1 3- to 4-pound chicken, quartered
  • salt and pepper
  • all-purpose flour for dredging the chicken
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ pound cured ham such as tasso, Smithfield, or prosciutto, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Jalapeño chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 2 dozen oysters
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • about ¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves

Method

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and roll the pieces in flour. Pat off any excess flour.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan or skillet just large enough to hold the chicken. Brown the chicken—skin side down first—in the butter over medium to high heat. If the butter starts to burn, turn down the heat. When the chicken is well browned on the skin side, after about 10 minutes, turn it over and brown it for 5 minutes on the other side. Take it out of the pan and place it on a plate.

Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the cooked fat in the sauté pan and add the ham, onion, and Jalapeños. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onion starts to turn translucent.

Put the chicken back in the pan and add the broth and bouquet garni. Bring to a slow simmer. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the chicken is firm to the touch. (If you don’t have a cover that fits, just turn the chicken over after 5 minutes so it cooks on both sides.)

When the chicken is done, take it out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Use a ladle to skim off any fat that has floated to the top of the liquid in the pan and remove the bouquet garni. If you’re serving the gumbo as a main course, just keep the chicken warm in the oven; otherwise, let it cool slightly, peel off and discard the skin, pull the meat away from the bone, and cut the meat into ½-inch dice.

Shuck the oysters—or have the fishmonger do it—and scrape them into a bowl, being sure to save all their liquid. If the oysters seem gritty, gently take them out of the bowl with a slotted spoon and spread them on a wet kitchen towel or cloth napkin; any grit or particles of broken shell will cling to the towel. Pour the oyster liquid through a triple layer of cheesecloth or a cloth napkin (rinsed first to eliminate bleach or chemicals) into the gumbo.

If you’re using cubed chicken, put it back in the pan with the liquid, add the cream and the chopped parsley, and gently reheat the gumbo. Season with salt and pepper. Poach the oysters in the hot gumbo for about 30 seconds and serve immediately in hot wide bowls. If you’re using whole pieces of chicken, arrange them in hot bowls and pour the simmering gumbo over them.

Suggestions and Variations

The original recipe in The Picayune Creole Cook Book uses the traditional thickening of filé powder (ground sassafras leaves). I don’t bother with it because I like soups with a light texture, but if you want to give it a try, whisk in 2 tablespoons filé powder along with the cream and parsley.