Gumbo Basics

Discussion in 'Nose to Tail' started by foamheart, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have had a few inquiries about gumbo. I don't mind posting a gumbo recipe but I know a million. Its like a how do you cook a pork shoulder? Below are some gumbo basics I have learned and use through the years that will make it easier to understand. Sure if you have a specific gumbo request I will gladly supply what I believe to be that one (see its all about interptation). Gumbo is what you like, or what I serve, those two are not always the same nor should they be.


    Anyway hope this helps. (BTW I have no idea how or why there are so many different fonts sizes below).



    Be it very easy to make, it’s very complicated to describe due to so many things to know. Gumbo's are all about the Roux (Pronounced RUE). Roux is nothing more than flour that is browned in grease. There is about 7 different degrees, starting with a white roux and ending with a red roux. The roux's to me, are used to compliment the type meats you are using, the darker the roux the more flavorful the meats. Chicken is a light brown where a duck is a dark roux, alligator is light, Venison is dark, fish is light, and turtle is dark. Most people not realizing the balancing act, they will add a meat type so they can use the same roux type for all gumbos. It's why you see Tasso, Andouille, sausage, ham, and other cured meats added to the main ingredient. It allows everything to use a darker roux.

    Roux are nothing more than flour and oil, the type oil affects the flavor as well as how hard or easy it can be burned. Obviously the best and most flavorful is the hardest to cook.  The darker the roux the more flavorful and the increase in the nutty taste. Different flours, different oil, change the tastes. The best IMHO, bacon grease and all-purpose flour, it’s what I use, but it can and will burn if not watched closely. Slowly brown and NOT burn 6 slices of smoked bacon and use the rendering, adjust flour accordingly.

    Thick bottomed pot, add a ½ cup of bacon grease to ½ cup of all purpose flour, get two beers, and have the onions already chopped next to the stove. Wisk the flour and grease together completely and then turn the fire on MED/HIGH. Drink beer with the left hand and whisk with the right, non-stop whisking. You will notice the oil change in texture and then the colors change, remember that you can NOT for even a second stop. Once started you can NOT stop and return, just don't work be ready to finish when you start it. Also you need to stop cooking before you reach the degree of darkness you want. Remember, it keeps on keeping on even after the fires out! As soon as you turn the fire out, throw in the onions, this will sweat the onions while also removing the heat.  

    Easy right? If you see even one speck of burnt flour at any time, throw it all away and start over when pot is cool and clean.

    Did I mention the amount of roux needed for a gumbo, it all depends upon how big the gumbo is. The more the roux the thicker the soup, personally I am a thin gumbo type, I think it’s about a soup with rice in it. I will not even start in on the proper type material the pot to be made from for different tastes and meats. I use magnetite, cast iron works but does have a taste to it, SS has no taste but is usually too thin unless it is a good professionally made pot (those you’ll need a second mortgage to afford).

    Creole Gumbo

    Gumbo is nothing more than stew or soup that is eaten with rice. A Creole gumbo is just a gumbo with okra and tomatoes in it, usually some type of seafood. It’s said the Creole gumbo is used when they had no flour and the okra was the thickening agent. Creole gumbo is usually associated with the Louisiana slaves, Creole refers to their and the Spanish influence and normally that's okra and tomato. I have heard that if you sauté the okra first before adding it, it will remove the "slime". Okra without slime tastes like a green bean to me, so what’s the point.

    Breaking a Roux

    When using a roux always remember never ever add hot water to hot roux, or cold water to a cold roux, they must always be opposites or it will “break the roux” and adds a grainy texture much like adding filet to the pot while cooking.


    File, used in really old south cooking, its just ground sassafras leaves, adds great flavor, but must be used very sparingly and near the completion of the dish to keep from getting a grainy taste.


    Rice; basically is three types, long, medium, and short. Long is the least glutinous or sticky; where short or arboreal is the most. It does make a difference to have the right rice for the right dish. Normally long grain for jambalaya, medium grain for soups and stews, short grain for those fancy city folks that like Risotto.


    Most will agree that for the most part seafood is a delicate meat and cannot stand up to prolonged cooking. For this reason normally it’s saved until the near completion of the meal to be added. There are other ways to introduce flavors earlier like making stock from shells, liqueur, bones or skins.  Never throw shrimp shells away!


    Once the roux is figured out nearly all Cajun food is simple. Meats/ Seafood/ seasoning meats, can all or any be used Smoked turkey is big on New Years using the Christmas carcass. Chicken and Oyster is for Christmas Eve. Most common is Chicken and sausage. Cut up hens, are available in all the grocery stores locally just for that reason. But fryers work just as well, faster but less flavorful. So add the broth, bouillon, or flavor crystals.
    mdboatbum likes this.
  2. Nice informative post - should help some folks for sure - thanks  [​IMG]   I haven't made gumbo or jambalaya in a long time & now you've got me thinking  [​IMG]
    mdboatbum likes this.
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Foamheart..... thanks for the description....  that is worth it's weight in tasso...   which reminds me, I gotta make me some.....  I was reading in the other thread about andouille recipes....  different sausage makers... differernt recipes...... different tastes...... different parishes....   well I like it all, but none of what I have eaten knocks my socks off....   I have all this hardneck garlic that wants to be made into andouille....   Now I have a lot of garlic and like the stuff...  I need a pointer, in the right direction to seasonings to use, and seasonings to avoid....    I do not want a "NEW YORK" andouille...   You know, like the picante sauce commercial.....    PM me and we will figure out something.....  

  4. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great" how to " there Foamheart.I saw it down on Anthony Bourdain where he went to a Cajun pig slaughtering party,looked like my sort of party[​IMG]
  5. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dang Software just ate my whole post!

    Anyway, South Louisiana used to be different. They only worked so they could party. When they had enough money to fish or hunt or trap for the rest of the year they drug-up and did it. It was the only place I know where it was like that. Even Mom and Pop talked about it. I know/knew men who turned down permanent employment with good money and benefits and a future because it would cut into there party time.

    Here's a great example, Terry Bradshaw Quarterback, would have never been heard of had not the starting quarterback in college quit the football team because school ran thru hunting season. The man went to school and today has a PhD but never went to college during hunting season. And that's when football season was. So the backup got the start and became a US national institution. People here didn't get caught up in the rat race. I'll do it my way. That's just how they were. They were loyal to a fault but don't ever cross one cause you might as well move.

    I had a contract employee that got 300.00 cash per day 7 days a week working 21/7 offshore. He was good, everyone wanted him on their rig. But season opening day he was gone and he didn't care if he was replaced or not. That was over 10 years ago!

    Its was why the Acadiens got ran out of Nova Scotia. They were religions abut they were gonna live there way and the KIng and the bankers, they weren't gonna put up with it. So they took there cleared land and built homes, loaded 'em up and dumped them in the Louisiana swamps. Expecting it to be the end of them.

    I am not saying they are hard headed, but if I were to say that, I'd be smiling. But enjoy life and love to dance and eat and party...... I never saw the like anywhere. They were a truly different type people.

    They are great people, the generations have rounded the ruff edges a little but its a great place to be.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2013
    chefbowpro likes this.
  6. africanmeat

    africanmeat Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for the Information  i will put it to good use .
  7. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for such a detailed and informational post, Foamheart!  I also enjoyed reading about the Southern Louisiana culture.  We have a hard time getting good okra up here in Oregon, but I buy it whenever I can find a nice fresh batch.

    Have a great day!

  8. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Foam thanks for the great post! Very informative.
  9. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Clarissa we are growing our own okra this year and it is one of the only things growing well in our garden!!
  10. dfbourg

    dfbourg Fire Starter

    Great post Foam. Some folks say gumbo is a cold weather meal, I can eat gumbo in August with no problem. I always thought that a good gumbo started with a good roux. But a few years ago I was proven wrong. I have a cousin that won the gumbo cook off a few years in a row at the bonfire festival in Lutcher. Finally they asked him to take over the festival to give someone new a chance. His gumbo is really good but to my surprise it doesn't make it with a roux. He gave me his recipe and it is really good but I'm sure there is still one or two things that he kept to himself. The great thing about his recipe is how fast you can cook a great gumbo. Simple, easy, and taste great is all I can say about it.

    Here it goes.
    ¼ cup peanut oil or vegetable oil

    1 medium onion (or 1/2 pound) diced (you can buy this already diced in most Wal-Mart's. You may also find some diced peppers or bellery as we call it.)

    1 pound of large andouille sausage (skin/casing removed, cut into ¼ to ½ slices) (you can substitute your favorite link sausage)

    2 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken thighs (cut in large bite sized pieces)

    ½ cup of Pillsbury Shake and Blend flour ( You can substitute with instant roux You can usually find this in Wal-Mart in the spice section)

    ½ gallon of water

    1 level tablespoon of Tony Chachere's seasoning, You can also find this in Wal-Mart in the seasoning section. You can also use Slap Ya Momma seasonings which is very good indeed, I gar--on---teee

    ½ teaspoon of salt

    ¼ teaspoon of black pepper

    ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

    ¼ teaspoon of granulated garlic

    5 teaspoons of Wyler's granules (chicken flavored) or 2 cans of chicken broth

    1 level tablespoon of Kitchen Bouquet

    1 heaping tablespoon of dried parsley flakes

    Chopped okra, optional

    Prep. Combine the Tony's, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, granulated garlic, Wyler's granules and parsley flakes in a measuring cup and mix well. Have your diced onions, sliced andouille and cut up chicken pieces readily available. Have your oil, flour and water pre measured and readily available. Have a bottle of Kitchen Bouquet handy and a measuring spoon nearby.

    1. On high heat, sauté the diced onions in oil for five minutes. Stir often to prevent onions from burning.

    2. Add the andouille or your favorite smoked sausage. Sauté for five more minutes and again, stir often to prevent burning or scorching.

    3. Now add the chicken pieces, then add your blended seasonings to the pot. Continue to sauté for 5 more minutes, stir often.

    4. Add the ½ cup of Shake and Blend flour and continue to stir for one minute to insure that the flour is incorporated into your mixture.

    5. Add the water and stir your gumbo to loosen all ingredients that may be sticking to the bottom of the pot.

    6. It will take about five minutes for your gumbo to come to a boil. As you near the boiling point, add the Kitchen Bouquet & stir to blend throughout your gumbo.

    7. Allow your gumbo to boil for about 15 minutes, then, reduce heat.

    8. Simmer your gumbo for about 15 minutes and skim any oil that accumulates on the surface.

    9. TIME TO EAT!
  11. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Oh.....Foam....great information. DF....that sounds great. I grew up on my Aunt's Gumbo in New Orleans. Love love love gumbo. I can eat that and brunswick stew all year long.To me it's comforting home food.I make red beans and rice here all the time. AND...not just on a Monday! Kat
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
  12. Foam

    Nice wright up. I was thinking a week or so ago.I need to make a big ol batch of gumbo.Now that fresh okra is starting to be ready.I use everything except the dishrag in mine. Chicken, sausage, white fish, shrimp, oysters. Tomatos. (note tomatos are ruff on cast iron) okra. Then about anything else i see at the time.

    Happy smoken.

  13. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    In all my traveling around when younger, I really enjoyed cooking. Everywhere I went every chance I got I was pulling out a pot and cooking something, gumbo, jambalaya, chili, quail, fish, whatever was fresh (how many non-commisarymen can say they have cooked for a crew on a nuclear submarine?). When I cooked cajun foods folks always wanted the recipe. The next time we'd talk they always would complain that theirs wasn't like mine. I was stuck in an airport on the way home from a customer in Ok., after his wife had explained how hers had flopped at a party. It was a LOOOOOOONG lay over they had to change the tires on the plane (really The captain on his prefight had refused to fly it!) That's how the list came about.

    I tell everyone the basics are easy, its the small stuff that always gets ya. Then cooking is about whats local, whats fresh, and the care and enjoyment of the cook. When its a bad day, you cook like it, its why you must admire a chef. He's trained so it shouldn't matter. If you love to cook, its reflected in your food. The same holds true with smoking. If it gets boring you should step back and take a break.

    Anyway, thanks guys for the nice comments. Since I have come back home I have spent some time trying to research the old ways and realize what people here cooked what and why they did. Some of the old recipes are so simple and full of flavors you'd never expect, and then you realize that is because of the little old lady smiling and talking while shes preparing it.

    What was the old saying about computers when PC's came out... trash in, trash out? Well cooking is about love in love out. But you all understand that.

    Need more coffee......
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
    butthead66 likes this.
  14. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sounds like a "Boucherie" vice a Cochon du lait. When you say Boucherie always smile cause it has two meanings and one starts fights. They're always a yearly event and social gathering which did the work of the day, killing cleaning processing rendering, etc... and then turned into a party. Its just the coonass way. Everything turns into a party.
  15. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I am stopping by the next time I'm in Bend!   

    I wish more people would start planting it.  I love fried okra, but most of the time when I find it, it is already dry and hard and shipped in from goodness knows where.  Would love to see it available and grown locally!
  16. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    A beautiful comment.

  17. bdskelly

    bdskelly Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I vote that we sticky Foamheart roux.  It's spot on and unless you've tried to make it and burned it you won't know what I be talking bout.  AhhhEeeee. Das wha he's talkin bout. 

    Last edited: Jul 24, 2013
  18. bdskelly

    bdskelly Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Pure Genius 

  19. If i come back to this thread one more time. I know i will be[​IMG]  the gumbo pot. Man it sure is hot!

    Happy smoken.

  20. Great post Foamheart. That is basically how I make my roux but everyone has his own recipe for gumbo. It's all in what works for you. Let's get together and talk cooking over a cup of coffee.

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