Thought I would add a footnote here for future reference. It is just the basics that make cooking a gumbo too simple. Once you come to realize these simple ideas you can not hardly mess up a Gumbo. Remember its just your favorite soup or stew over rice. In Louisiana we just cook with what we have, the same as in other geophysical regions. And if you like hot and spicy thats cool, but in South Louisiana thats not usually the case. hope ya enjoy it and it helps you get smiles.
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 turtle is dark. Most people not realizing the balancing act, they will add to 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.
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 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 dark you want, 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 its 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 is usually too thin.
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 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.
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.
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 its long grain for jambalaya, medium grain for soups and stews, short grain for those fancy city folks that like Risotto.
The same gumbo is cooked three different ways in Louisiana, there is East and West of the Mississippi cooking and North and South of I-10. LOL You can enjoy them all!