One of Ben’s and my favorite places to grab a nip and bite here in town is Jethro’s BBQ & Jambalaya. Jethro’s is well-known ’round these parts for their lip-smacking BBQ, and when they expanded their empire last year to include a restaurant featuring both their famous ‘Q AND mouthwatering homemade Cajun-Creole creations, we were pretty psyched.
Between sipping cocktails and beers from cold mason jars (MASON JARS!) and devouring their authentic-tasting southern fare with the same music we heard every night in the French Quarter playing in the background, we always feel like we’re back in the bayou when we go.
My favorite thing to order alongside a sweet tea vodka & lemonade, natch, is their homemade Jambalaya. Or is it Gumbo? I have this perplexing problem where I can never remember the difference between Jambalaya and Gumbo, and have to ask an exasperated Ben every. single. time. which one it is that I get.
Babe! We need to get you help! You ask this every time!
Right, yes, agreed – so which is it?!
Turns out it’s their GUMBO that I’m head over heels for (just texted him to double check!)
A spicy Cajun classic. Start with dark roux and vegetables. Jasper adds a heaping helping of andouille sausage & smoked chicken, a pile of steaming white nice rice and corn bread muffin.
I get a steamy cup of this to-die-for Southern stew, cough, alongside whatever else I order, cough, every time we visit. That smoky, slightly spicy flavor is the stuff dreams are made of, so I decided to combine it with my love of soups to create hearty Chicken Gumbo Soup!
The “holy trinity” of Southern cooking – bell pepper, celery, and onion – is sauteed with hearty bacon and chicken, then simmered in chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, and Cajun seasonings before long grain rice is added to soak all the flavors up. This is so multi-bowl worthy!
Seriously! I scooped up every last drop from my bowl then filled it right back up to the brim again. It is so delicious!
Super thick and luxurious from a quick roux – flour cooked in fat used to thicken up soups or stews – and not as fussy as a traditional gumbo, which you kind of have to watch, this soup is a perfect fall and winter dinner.
Start the Chicken Gumbo Soup by browning 3 strips chopped bacon in a large Dutch oven or soup pot (here’s the one I have!) over medium heat. Remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate then set aside, leaving 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings in the pot.
To the bacon drippings add 1 chopped small bell pepper (traditionally it would be green, but I could only find orange, red, and yellow at the store!) 2 chopped celery ribs, and 1 chopped small onion.
Season the veggies with salt & pepper, then let ‘em sweat for 5 minutes, or until they’re on their way to becoming nice and tender. I cannot HANDLE crunchy veggies in soups, so I like to let them get really soft!
To the softened veggies add 1-1/2lbs chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces and seasoned with salt & pepper. Seasoning each layer of ingredients will ensure our dish tastes just right in the end.
Also add 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning to the chicken. I was originally going to add cayenne pepper, but found this baby while rifling through my spice cupboard. It gives the dish an awesome, not-too-spicy red pepper and garlic flavor, plus it has paprika in it, which gives the soup a brilliant orange color. Never did find the cayenne pepper…
Next add 2 cloves minced garlic, let the chicken cook for 5 minutes, then sprinkle in 1/4 cup flour and stir constantly until the flour turns golden brown. This process creates the roux I mentioned, which gives the soup a rich, decadent flavor, and makes it thicken up nicely too.
After a few minutes, stream in 1 of 4 cups chicken broth then use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits that will have accumulated at the bottom of a pot up to this point. This is where all the flavor lives!
Once you’ve gotten everything scraped up, add the rest of the chicken broth, plus 28oz crushed tomatoes, and 2 cups water.
Followed by 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, for that classic southern flavor and spice.
Bring the soup and spices up to a boil, then add 1 cup long grain rice, and give the pot a big ol’ stir.
Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat down to medium-low, then let the soup simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is just barely tender, as it will continue cooking in the hot liquid. Give her a stir every couple of minutes to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Add the cooked bacon back into the soup then let it sit and thicken off the heat for about 10 minutes. Finally, scoop and slurp!
Chicken Gumbo Soup
Serves a crowd
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
salt & pepper
1-1/2lbs chicken breasts, cut into-bite sized pieces and seasoned with salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
32oz chicken broth (plus more for reheating)
28oz crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more or less)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup long grain rice
- Heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy then remove to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside, reserving bacon fat in pot (add extra virgin olive oil if necessary to get 2 Tablespoons fat total in pot.) Add onion, bell pepper, and celery then season with salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes, or until veggies are softened. Add chicken and Cajun seasoning then cook for 5 more minutes. Add garlic then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Sprinkle flour over veggies and chicken then stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until flour turns golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add about a cup of chicken broth then scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add remaining chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, water, bay leaves, red chili pepper flakes, and salt then bring soup to a boil. Add rice then cover pot, turn heat down to medium-low, and simmer, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes or until rice is just barely tender (it will continue to cook and soften in soup.) Add cooked bacon back into the soup then let it sit and thicken off the heat for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.
This has the exact same flavor profile as Jethros’ gumbo, but can be made easily at home! Toss in andouille sausage or kielbasa for even more flavor, or chopped fresh shrimp for a fun addition.
This recipe feeds an ARMY, btw, so halve it if your feeding a smaller crowd, or freeze the leftovers to enjoy later. Either way – enjoy your face off!
Workout of the Day: 35 Minute, 3.7 Mile Treadmill Workout