Chicken-And-Sausage Gumbos--Dozen Best
Chicken gumbo and its variants represent one of the two major galaxies in the gumbo universe. (The other is seafood gumbo.) While it has always been a mainstay of New Orleans home cooking, we didn't see it much in restaurants until Chef Paul Prudhomme reinvented and repopularized it at Commander's Palace in the 1970s. Chicken (or duck or pick your bird) gumbo is usually made with some kind of smoky sausage, and a thick, dark roux and an intense broth. I have always preferred chicken gumbo to seafood gumbo, largely based on the comparison my mother offered almost every week. She made both, and they were utterly different.
1. Mr. B's Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. The definitive dark-roux gumbo, and one of the best reasons to dine at Mr. B's. Great andouille. The bad news? Not as consistent as it once was. Still. . .
2. La Provence. Lacombe: 25020 US 190. 985-626-7662. Quail gumbo here is a miracle. Dark-roux gumbo comes tot he table in a wide bowl, with the whole, jambalaya-stuffed quail rising in the center like an island. Cut into it, and the jambalaya falls into the broth. Yes.
3. Brigtsen's. Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610. Not on the menu all the time (nothing here is), but when Frank Brigtsen makes gumbo, he makes gumbo. Dark, smoky, intense.
4. Chateau Du Lac. Old Metairie: 2037 Metairie Rd. 504-831-3773. Would you believe foie gras gumbo? Sounds crazy, but in the hands of this French chef, it works brilliantly. After all, foie gras is duck, and chicken livers in gumbo is nothing new.
5. K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. French Quarter: 416 Chartres. 504-524-7394. Chef Paul Prudhomme forever altered the recipe for chicken-andouille gumbo during his years at Commander's Palace. Here is that big, deeply flavorful formula.
6. Juniper. Mandeville: 301 Lafitte. 985-624-5330. Gumbo ya ya here is a classic dark-roux potage. Like everything on the menu in this great Mandeville bistro, the rustic flavors make everything stand out.
7. Katie's. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. Katie's has always made great soups. Here is the kind of homestyle chicken gumbo you expect in a backstreet corner cafe.
8. Palace Cafe. French Quarter: 605 Canal. 504-523-1661. A take on the Chef Paul-Mr. B's version, and you can't go far wrong there.
9. Cafe Reconcile. Lee Circle Area: 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-568-1157. It's on the menu every day, and considered by the regulars as one of the two or three signatures of this cafe and school.
10. Ignatius Eatery. Uptown: 4200 Magazine. 504-896-2225. The chicken gumbo here is the old style, like my mother made, before the Chef Paul influence became felt. It's hard to eat a cup of this and finish the roast beef poor boy too.
11. Parkway Bakery. Mid-City: 538 Hagan Ave. 504-482-3047. Turkey and alligator sausage gumbo is one of the new non-sandwich items on the menu. It's as good as it sounds.
12. Acme Oyster House. French Quarter: 724 Iberville. 504-522-5973. || Metairie: 3000 Veterans Blvd. 504-309-4056. || Covington: 1202 US 190 (Causeway Blvd). 985-246-6155. The Acme's gumbo is made off premises by a chef who is so adept at stuff like this that even though it comes in a plastic pouch to the restaurant it stands up to any other.
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