Everybody should have their own gumbo recipe.

I lived in New Orleans for a Lost Summer. I’ve had plenty of gumbo, mostly trolling bars late at night, needing something cheap to fill my belly for another round of rabble-rousing. However, since I am from East Texas, it’s in my blood to infuse spicy bold flavors into my version of the Louisiana classic. A bottle of hot sauce usually accompanies the N’awlins version, but you won’t need that with mine. For example, their “trinity” is onion, bell pepper, and celery. I substitute jalapeno and habanero for bells, and instead of andouille, I’m a big fan of Earl Campbell’s hot links. You can find opportunities to add flavor wherever you like, or you can ride along while I drive. Your choice.

Enjoy by topping with sour cream and/or queso fresco.




3-4 sticks of celery, chopped
4-6 chopped jalapenos
1-2 chopped habaneros ( Don’t get cocky here. Graveyards are filled with people who didn’t respect the habanero)
1 sweet onion, chopped chunky
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced fine
6 chicken thighs, dusted with salt, pepper, and cumin
link sausage, sliced into disks. (I prefer Earl Campbells hot links, but any sausage should do)
1-2 lb of okra sliced thick
4 cups of chicken stock, homemade if you can swing it
2 cans of beer (I like Fullsteam’s Paycheck Pilsner)
1 cup of flour
1 cup of vegetable oil
2 bay leafs
white rice
1 pad of butter
half bottle of Kentucky bourbon
ice cubes
a great true crime podcast


1. Turn on the true crime podcast.

2. Then, cook up the sausage (in a cast iron skillet if you got one) and put a little char on it. Set that aside when you are finished, then add a little more oil to the pan and brown the chicken thighs, working in batches. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on one side, then flip it. 2-3 minutes again, then set those aside with the sausage. Slice the chicken thighs into thick strips.

3. “First, you make a roux.” Technically, this is second, but I like to get the meat cooked as soon as I can. Deglaze that cast iron skillet with a splash of beer, then use a whisk to get up all the good parts. Add that cup of oil into the pan and let it heat up a little. Then add the cup of flour and start to whisk it completely. This will take a bit of patience, so it’s a good idea to drop the ice cubes into a glass then add the Kentucky bourbon. Enjoy while you whisk the flour and oil together. Now is not the time to step into the other room to check your email or use the restroom, because if you burn your roux, you have to start all over. Stand over it, drink, and remember that the longer you cook it, the darker your roux gets. The goal is to get your roux anywhere between a deep brick red and a dark coffee color, but DON’T BURN IT.
(Hint: You can actually let your roux finish in the oven, but people call this cheating.)

4. Put a small touch of oil in a pot and sauté the onion, peppers, and celery. Once they get a little soft, scrape the roux out of your skillet into the pot. Stir the vegetables around in it until the consistency thickens considerably. Add the garlic. Stir for an additional minute or so.

5. Now’s the fun part. SLOWLY add your beer and/or chicken stock into the pot. Whisk while you are doing this. Let a little moisture loosen the mixture and whisk until it thickens again, then repeat this process. Eventually, it will stop thickening and become more soupy. This is good. At this point, you can add the rest of the beer and chicken stock, then increase the heat to an angry boil.

6. After a couple minutes, add the bay leaf, chicken thighs, and sausage. Let this cook about 10-15 minutes. Chicken thighs will break down inside the soup, which is great. Add the sliced okra. The “slime” from the okra should thicken your stew considerably, but if you have file on hand, that will thicken it as well.

7. While the flavors in your pot mix together, start cooking your white rice. If you don’t know how to cook white rice, Google it. Once it’s cooked, add the pad of butter into the gumbo. Don’t let anyone talk you out of that step.

8. Scoop some rice into a deep soup bowl. Ladle a big spoonful of gumbo on top of it. I like to add sour cream or queso fresco on top of it. Don’t hate.

9. Pairs perfectly with another glass of Kentucky corn.

Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and cat Busey. He is the author of three novels: DIRTBAGS, HASHTAG, and WHAT WE RECKON, all available from Polis Books. His short films FOODIE and LIYANA, ON COMMAND have won several awards at film festivals across the US. His short fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Thuglit, and Great Jones Street, to name a few. In 2015, he was a finalist for the Derringer Award for his short story “Knockout.”

His third novel, WHAT WE RECKON, can be found on bookshelves across the country. He is the host of the Noir at the Bar series in Durham. Keep an eye out for THE LONG LANCE, the true crime podcast he authored, due out in 2018. A full list of credits can be found at