Cooking Louisiana - Gumbo

Gumbo is king in Louisiana. Heartwarming and flavorful, a gumbo can cure most Louisiana ailments like hunger-a-tosis, cold-to-the-bone-eolus and alcohol excessaria. Gumbo (Louisiana Love) is the dish the soul soaks up, and remember, Sunday is always "Gumbo Day"! Cold weather is called "Gumbo Weather" in South Louisiana but wait! Click here...

Making traditional Gumbo is not for you "fast food" cooks. This dish can take two or more hours. Most of the time is dependent upon making the roux. The more practice you get the faster you'll make them. If you don't LOVE to cook don't even mess with this one! Instead, go to mama's and get yourself a bowl! You can cheat and get pre-packaged gumbo mixes of which many are pretty good. 

Besides the roux, the gumbo stock is the base for the great flavor. Read about Stocks.

Roux

The roux is the base of texture and flavor for the gumbo. It takes practice so if you burn a few don't quit, just start over. We've all burned our share of rouxs. A roux takes your undivided attention. If you try to do other things while cooking a roux you'll likely burn it. 

I use peanut oil because it has a higher smoke point and it lends a little nutty flavor. Vegetable oil, lard, bacon grease and butter are all fine but you'll have to learn to adjust the fire differently for each. Mixtures of these oils are possible too.

A good roux (most flavorful) is almost a chocolate color. There are other roux colors (lighter) but they are for other specific dishes. We're looking for the dark roux for a gumbo.

If you are a beginner start with equal parts of oil and all purpose flour. When you get a little experience under your belt you can reduce the oil, it makes for faster browning. In a sauce pan, pot, Dutch Oven (my choice) or whatever, add the oil and let it heat for a minute on a medium fire. Lower the fire a bit, add the flour and begin stirring with a spatula. Let it cook for 10 seconds then stir again. When your fire is right you'll see the flour brown in slightly darker shades as you stir. If you see a big difference in color your fire is too high. As the roux gets darker you need to lower the fire a little, darker - lower, darker - lower, and so on. Experience will make you better at this.

You can cheat on this! (Click Here)

Gumbo Basics

Once you think the roux is the right color throw in the onions and stir for a few minutes. You can then turn the fire up a little and continue adding your other vegetables. Cook this for at least 30-60  minutes. Then add your meat and other favorite gumbo ingredients. 

The gumbo must boil a few minutes to obtain the maximum thickening of the flour (roux).

Start your gumbo early. If it sits on the stove an hour or so before you serve it it'll be even better. 

Green onions and parsley go in about 15 minutes before turning the fire off. Thyme is an essential seasoning in gumbo!

Add file' after it's done and the fire is off. 

Chicken

There are a few different methods in using chicken and hens. 

If you use a chicken (fryer) you can cut it up and throw it in as is. You can cut it and pan fry it until it's lightly browned (adds more flavor) and toss it in. You can boil and de-bone it. You can even de-bone it, pan fry it then throw it in.

A hen is tougher (it's an older chicken and has more experience running from gumbo cooks!) and will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to get tender in boiling water. I usually boil and de-bone it. You can cook it in the gumbo but then you have small bones to contend with. You say, well I have bones in the fryer! Yes, but to get the thicker pieces of the hen tender you wind up over cooking the thinner and bonier parts and they will fall apart first, bingo, small bones everywhere. 

Sausage

If you're going to make a gumbo using smoked sausage you have a few choices on how to treat the sausage depending upon how much meat you want in the gumbo. Smoked sausage can overpower a gumbo. 

If you just want it to season the gumbo and don't care about the amount of meat you are adding cut half of a link into 3/4" pieces and throw it in the gumbo. Let it cook for about 20 minutes and taste it. If you want more sausage flavor add more, cook for a few minutes then taste. 

The other method is to cut the sausage into the sized pieces you want and put it into a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Here is where you have the most control of the sausage flavor. In boiling the sausage you extract much of the flavor into the water. You then strain the water and add the sausage to the gumbo and taste it. If you want more sausage flavor add some of the sausage water. This method allows you to put more sausage meat into your gumbo and not overpower it with the sausage flavor. You will also get any excess oil out of it.

I like fresh sausage in my gumbos. You usually don't need the "boil first" method here because the "grease and heavy flavor factor" is not as prevalent. If you can get Chaurice (creole sausage) it's the best.

Follow the recipe when using Andouille as it has very little grease in it. 

Okra

I sometimes throw in a cup of fresh, large cut (1/2") okra about 30 minutes before serving.  A true okra gumbo actually doesn't use a roux. The okra is lightly browned and after all is said and done you have a thick gumbo with a good color and magnificent taste. Get ready to spend some time at the stove on this one, but man, it's worth the wait! 

Seafood

Shrimp, the large ones, will get tough if you cook them too long. Throw them in about 15 minutes before the fire is shut off. Be sure the gumbo is boiling at a slow roll. Adding a small handful of dried shrimp is an old Cajun trick.

All seafood should cook at least 5 minutes at a slow rolling boil, whole fresh crabs; at least ten minutes.

Eggs

Pre-Boiled, eggs make a nice addition.

Rice trick

Add a little stock to the water you're going to cook the rice in.

Other Stuff

Potato salad is a must with gumbo. 

French bread won't hurt either, especially lightly toasted with olive oil and garlic. 

Enjoy....

 

 

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Using Instant Roux Mix

 

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