Here’s the thing–okra is a vegetable of extremes. For the most part, folks tend to categorize okra as a “love it or hate it” relationship. It’s hard to be indifferent about okra. True Southerners, and especially good Cajun cooks, identify strongly with okra. But, even within okra circles there are those that love it in one dish and hate it in the other. Let me explain.
It’s often said, and I won’t argue as vegetables go okra is not very attractive and is downright slimy. Serve up a pot of stewed okra and watch half your guests run for the hills. Take that same okra, bread it in cornmeal, fry it up, and you’ve got ‘em hooked. Okra in gumbo is okay, but serve okra pickled in a Bloody Mary, and many will opt for a beer instead.
Most cooks like to sneak okra into dishes as a secondary item, but not me. I am of the opinion that every ingredient can stand on its own and should have the right to ascend to a starring role. And if you don’t like it, there’s a PB&J waiting with your name on it. Yep, I love the often-spurned pod, and I am a kamikaze cook when it comes to okra in my Cajun recipes.
My father-in-law lives in Lacassine, Louisiana over in Jeff Davis Parish and is fortunate to have befriended an okra farmer. So, when I told him my experimental plans for a dish combining okra and chicken, he delivered six huge bags of fresh-picked okra to my kitchen counter. Let the games begin.
- 4 strips bacon
- 1 cup diced yellow onions
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 8 chicken thighs
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon dark roux, such as Rox's Roux
- 4 links smoked pork sausage, sliced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Dash of hot sauce
- 1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained, such as Rotel
- 3 cups sliced okra
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the bacon. Cook until all the fat is rendered out of the bacon. Remove the bacon and reserve for later.
- Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the hot bacon grease. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir the mixture together and once the garlic is slightly browned remove the vegetables to a platter.
- In the remaining grease, add the chicken thighs, skin side down. Cook slowly without moving until the skin turns brown and then turn the pieces over. Immediately add the chicken stock along with the reserved vegetables and the dark roux. Crumble the reserved bacon into the pan. Add the sausage, red pepper flakes, seasoning and hot sauce along with the Rotel tomatoes. Stir to incorporate. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.
- Uncover the pan and add 2 cups of the sliced okra. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes more. Remove the cover and taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. A few minutes before serving add the remaining cup of fresh okra, cover the pan and turn off the heat.
- Serve with steamed white rice and hot French bread.
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