In the back corner of L’Espalier’s kitchens, Dickinson begins by searing chicken legs and thighs and Italian sausage (traditional Cajun andouille sausage is difficult to find in New England so he compensates with extra spices). He removes the browned meat from the pan. Next, the roux. Dickinson adds more oil to the pan and gingerly sprinkles flour over it. He quickly whisks the mixture, toasting each tiny grain of flour until it reaches his precise state of roux doneness. This, he says, can also vary from cook to cook, but in his opinion, the darker the better. Dickinson refers to the various shades of roux as if they were other delectable ingredients: starting with light peanut butter, then hazelnut, then the color of pecan pie, and lastly, rich chocolate pudding.
Once the roux has reached the right stage, Dickinson folds in the holy trinity of vegetables — onion, green bell pepper, and celery — along with spices such as bay leaves and dried thyme. The meat, broth, and other liquids join the pot and begin the slow and low simmering process. This big pot will take more than three hours. Dickinson serves the final product with plain white rice; he prefers jasmine for its fragrance, cooked with a ladle or two of the gumbo liquid.
Later that afternoon, when it’s time for staff dinner, the manager is dressed in a dapper suit complete with pocket square, and finds more employees than he planned for.
Taking a page from his great-grandmother’s book, he adds a little more water to the pot.
Katherine Hysmith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.