Posted 08 February 2005 - 10:11 AM
To recap and just to clarify, there are different types of gumbo, just like there are different kinds of chocolate. They are similar, but they taste different, and are usually prepared differently.
Most gumbos (in south Louisiana) are served with French bread, potato salad, and hot white rice.
Okra - What many people think is the traditional gumbo, it is made with okra at the heart of it, giving the dish it's flavor and texture. It is a more delicate flavor. Shrimp and chicken, either one with sausage, are the most common meat components. It gives a light green to gray result, with a thickened stock that is more like a stew, having a lot of vegetable material cooked down in it. It's a lighter dish than the other versions and does not include the use of file'.
Roux based - This is the preference of a lot of people. The roux itself can be anywhere from the light side of medium to a stunningly dark. As the roux darkens, it creates more of a caramalized or even burnt flavor. The darker the roux, the more bitter it is. The bitterness is usually balanced out with the rest of the ingredients, so be careful. When in doubt, go for a lighter roux. We've covered the color stages.
A roux based gumbo can contain nearly anything - wild birds, turkey, chicken, fresh or smoked sausage, small wild game (rabbits and even squirrel), crabs, shrimp, and greens. Some people either poach an egg in the liquid, or drop in a previously hard boiled egg to let it soak up some of the goodness of a roux based gumbo. The egg does not add to the flavor of the dish, it serves to give another protien source, or something to eat the stock with, if the meat has been picked out - a rather common occurrence. File' is sometimes added at the table.
Handling leftovers - If you are lucky, you will have some left. Gumbo is even better the next day, providing you follow a few guidelines. Store the rice and stock seperately, otherwise you get a gummy mess. I've found the best reheating method to be the microwave, especially with dark rouxs. They tend to burn without really careful supervision of the reheating process. The gumbo will be thicker after a rest in the fridge, but resist the urge to add water. When it heats up, it should return to where it was the day before. The rice can be reheated in the gumbo itself, if you are microwaving single serving. Otherwise, the rice alone can be reheated in the microwave after dripping a tablespoon of water over it. It can also be steamed to renew it.
Gumbo, whether okra or roux, is probably the preferred comfort food for most Cajuns. For that reason, feelings run strong about it. More than regional differences, family traditions and personal taste dictate how and when the gumbo is made, and what the cook puts in it. The only things that okra and roux gumbos have in common are the rice, the trinity, and the pot they are cooked in.
I too have been a bit of a fearmonger regarding rouxs. They are dangerous, but no more than frying chicken or handling a pizza stone. If you are careful, you should be fine. But you must be careful, and be sure you have everything ready for the second the roux gets to the proper stage. The roux waits for no one, and cannot be reversed.
Also, if you take the same basic roux based recipe, and adjust the seasonings for a lot less water, that same technique makes a wonderful stew, also served over rice - no file'. That stew can be made with beef tips, meatballs, chicken, shrimp, or even just eggs. You may want to go with a lighter roux, since the roux's flavor is more pronounced in the stew version. In my family, it was called fricasse (but pronounced free-KAH-say).
I really do hope everyone gives this a try.
Screw it. It's a Butterball.