For many deeply-rooted Louisianians, family recipes have a long and colorful history. As a child, Laplace home cook and caterer Myra Edgar Brown watched her Creole mother and grandmother as they cooked over giant bubbling pots of gumbo, pork stew, and bisque. It was in their home in Vacherie that she first learned her love of cooking and nourishing people.
“They knew how to make all sorts of recipes,” Myra says. “I used to watch my grandfather go out and hunt and fish so I learned to do a whole lot of that kind of cooking.”
For Myra’s take on her family’s rustic chicken and smoked sausage gumbo, she starts with a dry roux and a rich, flavorful homemade turkey stock. A slow simmer coaxes flavors from smoked turkey neck and local smoked sausages.
Beyond her gumbo—which won first prize in the 2014 St. John Parish Andouille Festival Gumbo Cook-Off—Myra is well-known for her Cajun Wedding Soup, Gumbolaya, and the particularly decadent Catfish á la Crème, which she served at Bubba and Myra’s Restaurant and more-recently See’ Bon. She passed along her years of experience in the kitchen by challenging her children Curly Jr., De’Andra, Janeka’, and Sandia’ with Iron Chef-style cook-offs using different ingredients. Above all, she teaches them to cook from their hearts and make her recipes their own.
“I love cooking for people, and seeing them enjoy my art,” Myra says. “From gumbo to a simple fried egg, that’s where I get my enjoyment.”
Now she is blessed with six grandchildren—E’nai’, Ernest III, Javen, Myracle, Rh’Nai’, Sanai’, and Arrenisha Hawkins—who are getting old enough to help in the kitchen and carry on the family’s Creole traditions.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 pounds smoked turkey neck, chopped
- 3/4 pound smoked andouille, cut 1/2-inch thick
- 1 pound smoked sausages, cut 1/2-inch thick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 gallon water
- 2 ¼ cups chicken broth
- 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
- 1/2 pound boneless chicken thighs, diced
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken wings, halved and wing tips removed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon filé powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley
- Cooked long-grain rice, for serving
- In a large cast-iron pot, add flour, and heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until flour is the color of dark caramel. Set aside.
- In a large stockpot, combine turkey, sausage, bay leaves, 1 gallon water, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a simmer, and cook 30 minutes or until turkey meat is tender. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving meat.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, in batches, if necessary, and brown on all sides. Set aside. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Add chicken mixture and toasted flour to pan, stirring to coat.
- Gradually add turkey broth to chicken, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until no flour taste remains. Add onion powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt, filé, parsley, reserved turkey, and reserved sausage, and cook, stirring, 5 minutes more. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with rice.