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Brian Theis


Gumbo Napoletano

Makes 12 servings

If a New Orleans Creole gumbo and a Neapolitan pasta fazool had a baby, with Sicilian godparents. Perfect for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and martedì grasso in Italy! Your friend in cold weather—a very hearty meal-in-a-bowl. I use a popular Chicago-style giardiniera in this recipe, but any kind you like will add a lip-smacking spin. Features an extra virgin roux for extra flavor!

4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 pound sweet Italian sausage (loose, w/o casings)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for browning chicken

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 large onion, diced

4 to 5 large ribs celery, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

4 large cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

16 ounces mild giardiniera (including marinade), vegetables chopped as desired

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth

1 pound frozen cut okra

1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini or Great Northern beans, drained

1/2 pound (8 ounces) small shells (or ditalini, or even elbows)

Chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese to garnish

Season chicken generously with salt and pepper, set aside.

In a large (7.25 quart) Dutch oven or other deep heavy pot over medium-high heat, add sausage and fry just till no longer pink, set aside. If you need more fat after cooking sausage, add a tablespoon or two of EVOO to pot for chicken thighs. Brown thighs on all sides, about 8 minutes, set aside.

To make the roux: reduce heat to medium-low, add the EVOO, heat, add the flour. Stir constantly till mixture becomes a rich caramel color, 15 to 20 minutes depending on your pot and heat. Do not overheat the extra virgin olive oil or leave this roux unattended for a second, or it may burn. You will roux the day!

To roux, add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic. Cook, stirring, till vegetables soften, 3 minutes. Add rosemary, tomatoes, chicken broth, bring to a boil. Scrape brown bits off bottom of pot as you heat mixture.

Add chicken, reduce to simmer, cook about 15 minutes till chicken is tender—it will not yet be fully cooked. Remove thighs from pot and shred meat off bone with two forks. Discard skin and bones. Remove rosemary stems. Add chicken meat back to pot, along with reserved sausage. Bring back to a simmer. Add chopped giardiniera with marinade, and the okra. Stir 5 minutes. Add beans. Simmer another 10 minutes.

Add small shells or ditalini, cook till al dente. Stir frequently towards the end—the okra may make it sticky. Scrape up the bottom of the pot again and let the gumbo sit, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Serve with a generous topping of parsley and  Parmesan, and a nice crusty bread alongside.