Prepare your onion, bell pepper, and celery, making sure dice is roughly the same size for all three veggies; put aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat 1 Tbs of the Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Cook sausage pieces until well browned, 5-8 minutes, stirring occassionally; remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
Season chicken pieces liberally on both sides with cajun seasoning and brown in Oil and sausage fat remaining in pot, 3 minutes per side; you will need to work in several batches. Remove to a plate, allow to cool, and refrigerate.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, begin to warm the chicken broth. Reduce heat under first pot to medium, and add remaining Olive Oil and flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 18-20 minutes; the resulting roux should be a deep brown the color of milk chocolate. Keep it moving in the pan, or it will burn very quickly.
Gently add reserved vegetables -- splashing roux will burn the heck out of you -- and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. The roux will break up and clump to the vegetables; that's ok. Add reserved sausage, bay leaves, and salt and cook another couple minutes, still stirring. Begin to add chicken broth a little at a time, stirring all the while so it is thoroughly combined before each new addition. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
Add reserved chicken and accumulated juices and simmer another 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and skimming any fat, foam, and film that may rise to the surface.
Remove chicken with a slotted spoon (it will likely be too tender for tongs to be effective) and allow to cool slightly. Remove pot from heat; if using shrimp, stir in now and cover pot for 10 minutes. They will cook in the residual heat from the stew without going rubbery. Shred chicken with two forks, discarding bones and cartilage if applicable. Return meat to the gumbo, stir in the file powder if using, and serve over white rice in deep bowls. Garnish with scallions and pass hot sauce on the side if desired.
* An unflavored oil is nice here, but don't be afraid to experiment with your favorite flavors, too; Seth's test batch featured a combination of Chipotle, Olive Wood-Smoked, and Cobrancosa Olive Oils.
** If making your own spice mix, Seth recommends the tried-and-true combination offered by Emeril Lagasse in his 1993 opus New New Orleans Cooking (the man knows his way around cajun cooking, after all):
- 2 1/2 Tbs paprika
- 2 Tbs kosher salt
- 2 Tbs garlic powder
- 1 Tbs black pepper
- 1 Tbs onion powder
- 1 Tbs cayenne
- 1 Tbs dried oregano
- 1 Tbs dried thyme
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Use on everything.
*** File powder, made from sassafrass leaves, is a traditional gumbo thickening agent; it will also give your stew an interestingly earthy undertone. However, since you've already spent darn near 30 minutes constantly stirring a roux, which also thickens your gumbo, and because the file flavor may be offputting to some, feel free to skip it if you want (especially if cooking for a crowd).
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