Gumbo is a soup, though it can be as thick and as chunky as a stew, depending on who makes it. Gumbo comes from an African word meaning "okra" which was traditionally always added to the soup. Nowadays it can be finished with either okra or file (though according to tradition never both). It is one of those dishes where everyone has an opinion about what constitutes "traditional" gumbo and there are a few variations that require certain items be added, though almost everyone will agree that the most important step in a great gumbo is making the roux. We are not talking your typical blonde or light brown roux, but a roux that has been simmered and stirred for hours until it is a deep, dark reddish brown, just a shade or two lighter than black coffee. I'm not talking burnt, but a deep rich, nutty roux, that lies just this side of burnt. A roux that you loved over and slaved over for hours. You screw up this step and your gumbo will, at it's best, be good, at it's worst, bitter and burnt tasting. But get this step right and you are on your way to, what I think, is one of the greatest dishes of the Americas.
Now it all becomes a matter of taste. The way I make mine is this: After making the roux, in a separate pot I render sliced andouille sausage (cajun andouille, not the french stuff) with a little extra added oil. When it is nice and crispy and has turned the extra oil reddish, I add the "holy trinity" of cajun cuisine (onions, celery and peppers, I use red peppers). I usually also add some jalapeno (not traditionally but I like it). I cook this down with the andouille until starting to caramelize. I then add some diced chicken, stir for a few minutes and then deglaze with some white wine. At this point I add the stock, preferably 1/2 chicken stock and 1/2 shellfish or lobster stock. I bring this to a simmer and then start adding the roux. It takes a lot that brown roux to thicken as you cooked out most of the starch. That's ok, just a lot. It is as much a flavoring agent as it is a thickening agent at this point. I also add a healthy dose of worchestershire and Crystal hot sauce, also dried thyme (yes, dried, I like the flavor it gives to this dish better than fresh). I simmer and stir for about 30 minutes (keep stirring, this roux really wants to burn!!). Finally I throw in crawfish tails (or shirmp) and maybe a few oysters. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add sliced okra. At this point, do not allow to boil again or the okra will cause the gumbo to become stringy. Enjoy over white rice with a loaf of crusty french bread.