Jersey Street Gumbo

Jersey Street Gumbo with Chicken and Kielbasa

Saturday night was the 12th annual Awards Banquet thrown by the Jersey Street Community Association. 

Of all the civic and fundraising events we attend each year, this is truly at the top of the list. 

The Jersey Street neighborhood lays snug up against the Hamilton Township border, tucked away between Lalor Street and Broad Street.  Once known as the Goat Hill and the Buckthorne neighborhoods, the area was sort of the Hungarian/Slovak side of Chambersburg (Trenton’s Italian section). The narrow streets are lined with typical row homes of those who worked in the wire mills, rubber factories, and potteries that edged the neighborhood.

A year after the Jersey Street Community Association was founded, they held a banquet to celebrate their accomplishments, prepare for the coming year and thank those non-residents who contributed to their progress.

The tradition stuck and became an annual event. Late every January, the group gathers at the Holy Cross Post #417 Catholic War Veterans Hall on Grand Street.  It’s a cozy venue for a charming evening of fellowship and goodwill and recognition of those who have contributed to the community’s ongoing work. 

The menu is oh so very Trenton: pasta (most often the ubiquitous “pencil points”) and meatballs, roast chicken, kielbasa and sauerkraut, roast pork and more.  And, after the buffet service is over, the guests are invited/encouraged to fill up the provided “to go” containers and take the leftovers home.

Seriously!

How many banquets have you gone to where you get to bring the leftovers home?!?!

We’ve attended all but the first of these banquets.  It took me a couple of years to get over the novelty of being able to bring home the leftovers but then an idea occurred to me.  If I grabbed some of the roasted chicken and kielbasa and took it home, I had the fixings for a Trenton spin on chicken and sausage gumbo.  

Add a little roux, some trinity (onion, bell pepper and celery), some stock to leftovers, simmer and you’re there.

Like the banquet itself, the gumbo is not fancy, just comforting; something warm to look forward to on chilly winter days. 

Jersey Street Gumbo*

  • 1 cup of mahogany colored roux (see note)
  • 2 cups of chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped sweet bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cups dry white wine 
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 pound kielbasa cut on the bias about one inch thick
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups cooked chicken

Heat the roux in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat until very hot (stir frequently so it doesn’t burn and turn bitter).  Add the chopped vegetable and stir.  The roux will seize up.   Stir until the vegetables soften.  Add the wine and stock and stir to incorporate well.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to keep the soup at a simmer.  Stir in the garlic, salt and black and red peppers (to taste). Add the chicken and sausage.  Cook until the meat is warmed through and the gumbo has thickened nicely.

Serve in a bowl over hot rice.

* You don’t have to wait for the Jersey Street banquet leftovers to make this dish.  Grab a rotisserie chicken and some smokey, garlicky sausage from your favorite vendor and you have the fixings for your own version.

NOTE: a good roux is key to a good Gumbo.  In a heavy pot heat 1 part lard or vegetable oil until hot.  Stir in an equal part of flour so that there are no lumps and keep stirring.  You want a dark, mahogany colored, roux.  It will take about 45 minutes of stirring.  Don’t let the roux burn or it will be bitter. There are other methods of preparing a roux: in the oven, the microwave, etc. but in our experience, nothing gives you a better product than the tried and true method of stirring over medium high heat.  ehow link 

Roux

Most often, a roux is made as the first step of making a gumbo.  You add the chopped up trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) to halt the cooking of the roux.  You can make the roux in advance.  Once the desired color is reached, carefully transfer the roux to a metal bowl and stir for about 10 minutes until the heat has dissipated and the cooking stopped.  The cooled roux can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for future use.   Be sure to return the roux to room temperature before adding to your gumbo pot where it will be heated, while stirring, until it’s hot enough to start sautéing the trinity upon the addition. 

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2 Responses to “Jersey Street Gumbo”

  1. Mark Stradling Says:

    Who’s your mama? Are you Cat’lic? Seems you can make a roux.

  2. Jim Carlucci Says:

    Thanks. Made it in the cast iron skillet for the first time. It turned out so good I think it is my new standard method.

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