Chicago's best gumbo at Lagniappe
February 17, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Nothing says Fat Tuesday like gumbo - and it doesn't get any better than Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt on the city's South Side.
A Mardi Gras celebration wouldn't be complete without a bowl of gumbo, of course, but this traditional one-pot meal is more than just a stew. It is a symbol of the necessities of life in the bayou. At Lagniappe, a Creole-Cajun joint in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, gumbo is practically a religion.
"Well it's very significant. Traditionally gumbo came about as result of people cleaning out their refrigerators at the end of the week. And it was a compilation of leftovers," said Lagniappe owner Mary Madison.
Madison begins by making a roux - always flour and fat - in this case, oil. They're cooked together, slowly, until the roux turns color. There are blonde rouxs and black rouxs, but Madison cooks hers until it's the color of peanut butter, then it's held until later. Chickens are submerged in a giant pot with water, then a flavorful soup is made by adding the "holy trinity" of celery, peppers and onions, plus dried seasonings like garlic, onion and bay leaf, plus Old Bay and Cajun spice.
Once the chicken is cooked, it's pulled out and the flavorful stock is strained. The roux goes in first, which will thicken the gumbo. Then the holy trinity again, along with fresh garlic; spicy andouille sausage is sliced into small coins and added. This is where patience pays off.
"We like for it to cook slow. Because the more you cook it in the slower it is, it brings the robust flavor out of each and every vegetable. It comes together better," Madison said.
File powder will help thicken the gumbo some more, and then the cooked, pulled chicken goes back into the pot. After another hour or two of slow-cooking, the gumbo takes on the hue of the original roux, and is thickened to a stew. Madison says it takes a long time to make, but it's just not Mardi Gras without her favorite dish.
"Got to have gumbo," she said.
Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt
1525 W. 79th St.
Heaven on Seven
111 N. Wabash Ave., 7th Fl
600 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Fl.
224 S. Main St., Naperville
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