Matt Hobbs has a special talent. He makes people happy.
The self-described songwriter and content creator has done everything from ad jingles to improv theatre, original songs to hilarious TikToks. An advertising veteran and award-winning musician, he even created Puppy Songs, which has been featured on The Today Show and has nearly 50,000 followers on Instagram.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that he makes a mean gumbo. After all, it’s a smile-inducing comfort food that improves almost any situation. While he humbly suggests that there’s “no wrong or right away to make a gumbo,” he’s also spent years perfecting his version. And he’s kindly shared a few ways for your next batch to be the best yet.
“These days I don't really use a proper, written recipe for gumbo -- but a while back I used to reference Emeril's Chicken and Andouille Gumbo recipe -- so that's a decent start, but it's evolved a lot since then.”
“Gumbo is a reflection of you and the moment,” Matt tells us. “Use what you have, and it’ll be beautiful.”
1. Prep is patience
Dice up your trinity. And don’t forget the Pope (garlic) and the shallot. Mix up your seasonings. Dice up all your sausage, using different shapes for different types so you can tell what’s what. (I usually do half circles for andouille and full circles for smoked sausage.) It’s a lot of chopping and organizing, but your future self will thank you when it’s time to put it all together.
2. Caramelization = flavor
Take time to brown up your sausage and andouille. Season and brown your chicken thighs. Once the stock hits, you’re not getting any more rich, caramelized flavors from your ingredients. That’s why I try to get the most out of those proteins by browning everything in advance.
3. Don’t fear the roux
I like my roux to be pretty dark. I generally go for a “two-beer roux” (cooking it for the time it takes for me to sip two beers), resulting in a color between milk and dark chocolate (~40 min). I recommend using a ceramic glazed Dutch oven with a flat bottom wooden spoon. Don’t stop stirring, and don’t let it get too hot.
4. It’s even better the next day
Once the roux, stock, veggies, seasoning, and sausage cook together for a while, I like to chill the pot down in an ice bath and throw it in the fridge overnight. When I warm it back up the next day, I add all the fragile stuff—chicken, okra, crab—to cook over the last hour or so.
A Better Gumbo Ingredients List Or Maybe Recipe Or Both TBD
“I don’t have any quantities,” Matt says. “I usually eyeball stuff.”
Ten years ago, he started evolving his gumbo based off of an Emeril Lagasse recipe. Subtle modifications here and there, incorporating tips from friends and family, always getting a little bit better, never looking back.
“There’s no wrong way, really,” Matt insists. “Mine will probably be different in another 10 years.”
Below, then, is a list to get you started: some ingredients, some instructions, a whole lotta adventure. Happy gumbo-ing, y’all.
A list of ingredients
- The stock: sometimes I make it from scratch in the instant pot with chicken and pork bones we save in the freezer. Other times, I buy box chicken stock (some regular, some low sodium) from the grocery.
- The holy trinity: onion, bell pepper, celery (chopped). Sometimes I buy everything whole and chop my brains out. Sometimes I buy pre-chopped trinity at Publix. It's a little pricier, but it saves a lot of time. And I still usually end up adding fresh chopped onion and bell pepper even when I buy pre-chopped.
- Garlic. Garlic!
- Cajun seasonings: black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, Paul Prudhomme's seasoning blend, cayenne
- Tomato paste: San Marzano, please.
- Chicken: I usually get boneless skinless chicken thighs. I brown them really good in a skillet with some oil and some Paul Prudhomme Poultry Magic seasoning.
- Sausage(s): I like smoked sausage (Conecuh, or whatever they have at the grocery) and I usually have some Veron's andouille and Veron's green onion sausage that I bring back with me whenever I go home to New Orleans.
- Frozen sliced okra
- Corn: canned is fine
- Crab claw meat: when I’m feeling fancy, I get some of this from Publix.
- For the roux: flour and vegetable oil. Nothing special.
- Rice: I usually get short grain.
- Stuff to garnish after it's been served: green onions, dry sherry
Some extremely general cooking instructions
- Chop all the veggies, set aside.
- Pre cook some trinity, garlic, tomato paste, and worcestershire, set aside.
- Season and brown the chicken, set aside.
- Brown all the sausages, set aside.
- Make seasoning blend, set aside.
- Important: pour yourself a beer. Now, start on the roux. Equal parts vegetable oil and flour. I use a ceramic-lined dutch oven with a flat bottom wooden spoon. Low-to-medium heat for at least two (2) beers and/or 40 minutes, until the roux gets dark.
- Add some raw trinity to the roux, cook a bit, then add garlic, cook a bit, then add seasoning, and—you guessed it—cook a bit.
- Heads-up: this is your last chance to get any caramelization before the stock gets in there.
- Add stock and bring to a boil for a while.
- Now add some sausage and cook for a bit.
- At this point, I usually take it off the heat, get it into an ice bath, and into the fridge overnight.
- The next day, I heat it up again, add the browned chicken, and cook a bit.
- When you're 20 minutes out from serving, add the okra, crab, and corn.
- Serve over rice, garnish with green onion and a splash of sherry.
- You did it!