The Almighty Gumbo

Posted by Tracey Vowell on

Andouille Sausage - My suggestion would normally be that you order it in, if you want a really authentic gumbo, and I would, under normal circumstances, suggest that you get a few pounds of smoked pork Tasso, as well.

Roux is the thickener of choice in the making of a great many Creole dishes, and although the process is familiar, the color, can be a bit daunting the first few times out. I like a heavy medium sauce pan, and a wooden spatula for making Creole roux, and I make sure I am of a singular mind, when making it.

Roux Directions

  • 1/2 cup clarified butter
  • 1/2 cup flour

I use the Artisan Blend from Janie's Mill, but any white or not too hearty whole wheat, will work. 

Meat he butter in the saucepan, and add the flour. Put the pan over medium heat until things start happening, and you see the first shades of color change, then turn it ALL THE WAY DOWN TO LOW.

Patience and attention are the only way to get a delicious, dark, roux, so before you even start, get a beverage together, shoo off any directions, have a metal bowl to pour into, and be prepared to stay right there for 20-30 minutes, watching and stirring. I like a wooden spatula with a nice corner edge, but a high temp rubber or silicone spatula will work as well. Just remember that you are going to be asking a lot of it, so give it a chance to cool between stirrings, as this waterless mixture will move way above 212 degrees, as it cooks. This is not something you want to whip around in the pan either, as it will hurt you if even the tiniest drop goes airborne.

Watch as color changes start, and be brave. Keep gently stirring and watching. You are looking for something along the lines of moderately dark chocolate, and you do not want to run a footrace to get there. Resist the urge to increase the heat, as rapid color development will impart a burned flavor. There will be a small amount of smoke as you come to the end of cooking. Let it be your signal that you are arriving at your destination. At the first real whisps of smoke, remove the pan from the burner, and continue stirring for a minute or so, then turn your finished roux out into the metal bowl. The stuff is going to be extremely hot, so pour and scrape carefully to avoid any splashing. Do not leave it in the pan to cool, as residual heat will continue cooking, and will bring that burnt flavor that you just spent half an hour working against. Set the roux aside. This part can be prepared ahead. Weeks ahead even. Roux is something that is commonly made in general batches, and stored, once cooled, in a jar in the fridge, to be spooned out as needed.

Almost every Creole dish is built on a base of what is often referred to as Trinity, being onions, bell pepper and celery. I steer off a bit here, and usually use poblanos in place of the green peppers, because I like a robust gumbo with a good amount of heat. Entirely up to you.

  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 bell or poblano peppers, red or green
  • 2  good ribs of celery

Cut your andouille, or similar, removing the paper casing, if present, and cut into smaller bite sized pieces. Place in a large, heavy pot over medium heat with a small amount of oil, and allow to brown well, stirring regularly. As the andouille is cooking, cut the vegetables for the next step into a medium small dice.

Add the vegetables to the cooking sausage, and continue cooking until good color develops. 
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes
  • 1# of okra, about 15-20 good sized pods

Chop the tomatoes, and slice the okra into quarter inch rounds, and add to the sweating vegetables and sausage. With heat relatively high, cook until the the mixture dries down a bit, then add:

  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart stock (chicken, vegetable, or pork)
  • a good pinch of thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • A few good shakes of Tabasco sauce

Add your herbs, flavorings, and stock, and simmer over medium heat until everything is well cooked. Add a couple good spoonful's of your roux, and give it a few minutes to do it’s thing. Stir, and once the liquid has bubbled a bit, the roux will activate, and thicken the soup. Depending on your amount of stock, an additional spoonful may be needed. I like for my roux to cook into the gumbo gently, but now, you have something that is looking for a reason to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, so be vigilant about the lowest possible heat that will still keep a bubble or two popping, and stir.

Allow to simmer gently as you prepare the rest of your protein selection. Gumbo comes in many flavors that way. There is seafood, in which case I would suggest shrimp, maybe some oysters, and if you can find them, a few cracked crab claws. If you are making a more land based gumbo, then maybe chicken, or duck. In the case of seafood, wait until just before you serve to add the seafood, and cook just a couple of minutes more once your selection is in the pot.
If you are going with land based, it could be cooked chicken or duck that you reserved the cooking liquid for, or it can be raw. Either way, cut it into bite sized pieces, and add to the pot, continuing to cook until your meats are cooked through, and tender. I really do suggest dark meat over breast, as the texture is more appealing, but there are no hard rules. I will say although I have seen gumbo made with things like squirrel and rabbit, I have never seen beef, or pork, other than smoked meats.
For the gumbo is in its last simmer, cook some white rice -
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 - 3/4 cups water
Place everything in the pan, and watch for the first signs of boiling. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and leave it alone, for 20 minutes. After that time, check the consistency of your rice, fluff a bit with a fork, and serve with your gumbo. Please, I beg you to resist the idea that the rice could be put into the gumbo directly. Typically, a scoop of rice is placed in the middle of a wide, shallow bowl, and the gumbo is spooned around. This is the time when a good pinch of filé might be sprinkled over the everything. 

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