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Susan in FL

Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etouffee, Creole...

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A gumbo without roux would be, well, soup. :wink::laugh: Good soup, but soup nonetheless.

It is a thickening agent, but it also carries quite a bit of flavor. Especially in meat based gumbos where the roux would be made in the same pot where the meat (sausage, chicken, turkey, whatever) had been browned. You may have to add some oil, or remove it, but you want to use what you have as those little bits of flavor are hard to duplicate (see the roux I showed in my food blog to see what I mean).

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Roux is, to me at least, the definitive flavor component of gumbo. As the style of gumbo gets darker, the thickening power decreases. The really dark stuff, like in my recipe that I linked to, doesn't thicken much at all. That is why there is usually a bottle of file powder on the table. (file = powdered sassafras leaves, added at the table instead of cooked in so it doesn't get slimy, and, BTW, it is pronounced feelay) The more medium rouxs are typically used for seafood. I usually suggest that novices NOT try to do the really dark roux on their first try. You need to get familiar with your stove and develop your technique (details, details, details) before you try to take it that far.

I think there is something that happens to the flavor of the trinity (onion, pepper, celery) when it hits that hot roux. I also delude myself that the cayenne is also affected. That is why I season the trinity with the cayenne before it is added to the pot.

I substituted poblanos one time in a small batch just out of curiosity. I didn't particularly care for it. It was like someone singing off key. About as far as I deviate from the traditional trinity is to add some red bell pepper. It looks pretty in a lighter seafood gumbo.

Oh... one other thing. Make sure that whatever stock you use is cool and not hot. Add it a little at a time at first. Otherwise you will have a hell of a time ever getting it to mix and will have really gross brown blobs floating around. :biggrin:

Stick with a neutral oil and AP flour. Funny story... I was on and off the phone with a friend, talking him through a pot of gumbo. He called back and said, "My roux doesn't smell delicious like yours. It actually smells really gross. What did I do wrong?" After many questions and speculations, I am still mystified when he finally fessed up that he had used extra virgin olive oil and whole wheat flour to make it more "healthy".

Emeril has an amazing beef fricassee recipe in Louisiana Real and Rustic that gets its unique flavor from quenching a dark roux with the cubes of beef.

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One of the keys to good roux is stir, stir, stir. You must have EVERYTHING ready to go in as soon as it's the color you're after. You CANNOT start your roux, and think you can cut up the onions, etc, while it's cooking and stir it every minute or so. You'll end up with burned bits for sure, and you'll have to start over. Burned bits of roux are NASTY and BITTER, and will swear you off making gumbo ever again. (They also stink up the kitchen). fifi's method and tips are very good. I think the roux is all about the flavor and very little about the thickening. My gumbo is really not thick at all, but chock full of all sorts of good stuff!!!

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I second the motion to have everything ready.

I actually wrote up that chicken & sausage gumbo recipe because Jason and Rachel had commented on a couple of the restaurant threads about how good the dark gumbo is and how difficult that is to do. My dark gumbo looks like the really dark stuff at Upperline. Besides, I owed Jason big time for some really great suggestions for Mirlitons. :laugh:

I set out to document what I have been doing for years and had been taught many years before. I actually made a pot of dark gumbo and made audio notes into my iPaq as I went so I wouldn't miss anything that I do as a matter of habit. In reality, I make many different styles of gumbo, but the dark is the family favorite.

Actually, gumbo is pretty formulaic but variations in the ingredients make it an endlessly fascinating dish:

roux (anywhere from about peanut butter colored to Hershey Bar dark)

trinity (typical ratio is 2 parts onion, 1 part each pepper and celery, but it can vary)

stock (or water in a pinch)

meat (fowl, sausage, any variety of seafood in various combinations, game)

Then you get to the usual additions and tweaks:

okra (some like, it some don't)

tomatoes (can be controversial but is found in more western parts where a Spanish Creole influence shows up)

other seasonings (cayenne is pretty universal but other additives are not unusual: bay leaves, thyme, worchestershire, favorite hot sauce, etc.)

Once you get "into" gumbo, it is really a lot of fun... "Here is what I have. I wonder if it would make a good gumbo?" The whole idea is to take common ingredients, what you have on hand, and make something uncommonly delicious. Not a bad plan.

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Gumbo is one of those things, like potato salad, that everybody makes differently, but (nearly) everybody's is good. Our favorite one is of the 'chicken of the sea' varity - chicken, sausage, shrimp and crab. Okra, too. I'm going to have to stir one up this week.

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Are the crabs steamed first or thrown in raw, and would that be when putting in the crabmeat, shrimp and ham?
The crabs we use are blue crabs.
I put mine in raw(or frozen) and let them cook a long time.

I'm sorry to be so thick headed... but...

I'm not sure what frozen blue crabs are, and moreover, I'm having a hard time with the idea of putting live whole blue crabs in the gumbo after getting the roux just right and adding the vegetables and cooking, simmering, etc. I guess a pound is just three or four (I've never referred to live crabs by their weight, only the number), but I'm wondering what cooking live crabs in that will do to the consistency of the gumbo. Please let me know if I'm understanding this correctly. If that's what you say to do, Brooks, I will! :smile: Have you posted the recipes for your Jambalaya, etoufees, and the best shrimp creole recipe you have ever had yet? Thanks!

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I don't see MM around so I will continue. The crabs are dead and cleaned. Here in Texas, gumbo crabs are usually sold cut in half lengthwise with the legs and claws still on. Sometimes the claws are off.

I guess I had better also tell you that the shrimp are peeled. :biggrin:

BTW... There are NO stupid questions. Ask away. That is how you get to gumbo Nirvana. :wink:

Dana... You are so correct about the potato salad analogy. Funny thing is, about the only really bad gumbo I have had has always been in restaurants. (Think underseasoned, can't find the roux, more rice than substance, rubbery seafood, grisley chicken, mealy or mushy sausage.) And at some pretty high toned places too. Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about potato salad. :laugh:

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Our favorite one is of the 'chicken of the sea' varity - chicken, sausage, shrimp and crab. Okra, too.
That was what I made the one time before. Wow, looking back now at how good that was, I realize I did very well for a first-timer. Lot's of research before making something like this pays off.
The crabs are dead and cleaned. Here in Texas, gumbo crabs are usually sold cut in half lengthwise with the legs and claws still on. Sometimes the claws are off.
This is new to me. Before moving here, I was used to going crabbing, bringing home a bushel or so, and steaming them live. We haven't gone crabbing in FL yet, but they are blue crabs that are caught here, and we buy them live. In my life, I've always known not to cook dead crabs... if they died, they were thrown away. It intrigues me about being sold as you described. What a hoot!

Here are some from one of our recent crab eats. i6152.jpg

I guess I had better also tell you that the shrimp are peeled.
Thank you... I wouldn't have known. :unsure::smile:

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fifi- I have to agree about the restaurant gumbo. I HATE is when the shrimp has cooked so much that it's mealy/mushy/falls apart in your mouth. If you bite on a shrimp, you should know it's a shrimp. Or if there's only 1 shrimp in the whole cup. Or if it tastes like they used Campbells' instead of roux. I could go on and on....

My local seafood market usually sells crabs whole, but cleaned (dead -guts and faces removed). If they don't have newly cleaned (dead) ones, they have them frozen - fresh crabs don't last long. I assume if they don't sell that day, they stick them in the freezer. I don't think I'd put them in live - guts and all - that doesn't sound like it would be good.

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Yeah, Susan. That is what we do for just eating crabs. But this is for gumbo. You really don't want all of that schmutz in there. Then there is the problem of what you would do with it at the table. Cleaning a crab that has been dunked in gumbo is not very practical.

The typical procedure, when gumbo crabs are involved, are to fish them out, put them on the rim of your bowl or on a plate and let some of the gumbo "drain" off. Then you lick the remainder off and proceed to crack them and pick them while you have another beer. :wink:

Actually, for boiled or steamed crabs, I have come to prefer doing the cleaned ones. I have done them both ways and just developed that personal preference. If I am doing the catching, we usually kill them with an ice pick and clean them on the spot. The shells and schmutz go back into the water to feed more crabs. (The buggers are cannibals.) That was something my grandfather started doing many years ago at the bay compound when I was a kid. He was sort of a conservationist before that was cool. It was also a mortal sin to keep a female crab. He also gave each kid a "crab stick". If your crab wasn't the same measurement, point to point, as your stick, you had to throw it back.

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I am back on line after a disasterous lightning hit. I know that it is too late, but I am here to help if you aren't already finished.

Gumbo crabs (if yo buy them here) are small blue crabs that have been halved (or even quartered if they are big), small legs removed and the crabs seperated (most of the time). They are sold in the frozen seafood section of most stores here and are handy for this kind of project.

Umm, use peeled shrimp. You can find peeled 71/90's in the seafood market most of the time in a five pound block.

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The typical procedure, when gumbo crabs are involved, are to fish them out, put them on the rim of your bowl or on a plate and let some of the gumbo "drain" off. Then you lick the remainder off and proceed to crack them and pick them while you have another beer. :wink:
Linda, once again, thank you. This did the splainin'! I knew this was the place to get a Complete Gumbo Education. I especially did understand the part about licking and picking and drinking beer.
If I am doing the catching, we usually kill them with an ice pick and clean them on the spot. The shells and schmutz go back into the water to feed more crabs.....  He was sort of a conservationist before that was cool. It was also a mortal sin to keep a female crab. He also gave each kid a "crab stick". If your crab wasn't the same measurement, point to point, as your stick, you had to throw it back.
For Gumbo, killing them and throwing the junk back, and cleaning them on the spot, makes sense to me. What an interesting thing it is, to discover the differences in local regions. And here I thought I knew a lot about fresh seafood, raised on the Delmarva Peninsula, crabbing, clamming, fishing, etc.! This is way cool.

BTW, Friday I made the Pickled Shrimp recipe that's in your family, and we enjoyed it last night for a first course, with bread and butter and beer... yummy. None left. Except some onions and dressing, and today we're going to throw some asparagus or some kind of vegetables in there to marinate.

I am back on line after a disasterous lightning hit. I know that it is too late, but I am here to help if you aren't already finished.

Gumbo crabs (if yo buy them here) are small blue crabs that have been halved (or even quartered if they are big), small legs removed and the crabs seperated (most of the time). They are sold in the frozen seafood section of most stores here and are handy for this kind of project.

Umm, use peeled shrimp. You can find peeled 71/90's in the seafood market most of the time in a five pound block.

Oh no, what was the damage from your hit? I hope you all are OK.

You're not too late to join in and share your wisdom! I have gotten just about all of my questions answered, but still am enjoying the continued discussion. What I haven't gotten to yet is finding the additional recipes that you mentioned, the jambalaya, the etouffees, and that shrimp creole you were talking about. As I said, I'm learning a lot. I will check around in frozen seafood sections, to see if anybody sells "gumbo crabs," if we don't do the fifi thing. Who knows, they could be there, but I wouldn't know it because there haven't been many occasions for me to look at frozen seafood.

The only thing I can't do... Shrimp that has been frozen is against the Floridian Religion, so I will buy the tiniest of the fresh.

:smile:

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Actually, Susan, I live in the shrimp capital of the US (in terms of poundage, 110 million pounds per)) and I promise you that unless you are buying the shrimp from the guy who caught them, chances are that they have been frozen at some point. Lots of shrimp are fresh, but most have been frozen on the boat as they are caught-otherwise those guys would have tons of spoilage as the big boys stay our UNTIL they have a boatload.

Besides, those little gumbo shrimp are great. They are peeled with a process invented by a guy from new orleans (Doc Lapeyre) a long time ago. They are the perfect size for gumbo, and as they are peeled raw, they pick up all of the flavor of the other ingredients.

Our Wal Mart has gumbo crabs, but that may be a regional item ( I doubt that they have them on the shelf in Dubuque. :wacko::laugh: )

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Brooks is correct about the frozen shrimp thing. Actually, Instant Flash Frozen (IFF) shrimp is a better product than "fresh". Many years ago, I used to grade shrimp for FDA. As IFF was becoming more common on the boats, the quality of the shrimp was showing a marked improvement. We, of course, tested this hypothesis with a scientifically developed method of flash cooking with garlic and butter in the autoclave. :laugh:

IFF is not the same as putting shrimp into your freezer. When they say flash, they mean flash. I forget the temperature but it is way below zero. I also forget the time involved between the net and the flash freezer but it is really really fast. This method does not allow time for ice crystals to form in the flesh and affect the texture. What you get when you thaw the shrimp is what you would pretty much get if you were on the boat with pot in hand as the net is hauled in.

As I think about it, I think Mayhaw Man is right about the gumbo crabs being just the halves of the bodies, no legs. I will bet that leaving the legs on was a family thing. As kids, we liked to suck on them and fiddle with getting the little bit of meat out. I am now starting to suspect that that was Grandma's way of keeping the kids quiet for a while. :hmmm:

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Y'all have inspired me to make a gumbo tonight. Looking through the refrigerator, I see the following leftovers:

homemade sausage (buffalo-bacon-apricot)

a chicken cutlet

most of a can of crushed tomatoes

green peppers, just starting to go

a mixed-six of bottles of Yards beer (for me, not for the gumbo)

Once I pick up some shrimp and some okra (if the stuff at the store looks good) I'll be in business!

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Wellll..... I'll think about it. :hmmm::biggrin:

I'm sure you're right, on the shrimp... you're right about everything else pertaining to the Gumbo way of life, so I'll take your word for it about using the frozen. As long as you're not going to come back with a convincing argument in favor of frozen five pound blocks of shelled 80-count farm-raised shrimp. I have to draw the line somewhere! :biggrin:

I do know that the local shrimp we buy, whether or not it was frozen on the boat, or IFF at some point, are way better than the previously frozen shrimp I previously -- :laugh: -- ate, in my pre-Floridian days. The contrast is striking.

I wonder if it makes a difference where they're from. Our guy at the seafood market gets them from the small shrimp boats I see out on the ocean when I'm taking my morning walks on the beach. Is all the poundage you're talking about Gulf shrimp?

But whatever the case, in regard to Gumbo, your points are well taken.

We're making duck stock from the remains of Friday night's grilled duck, even as we speak. I'm hoping to use it for a duck gumbo.


Edited by Susan in FL (log)

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Nope, not talking farm raised. As a matter of fact, I had a discussion with Fifi about my shrimp buying habits and they are this-if they don't come out of the Gulf, I don't buy 'em. Period. This is not the appropriate thread for it, but imported frozen shrimp have all kinds of chemicals in them to keep them from sticking together (polysorbate and similar stuff) and on top of that, the shrimp guys are having a hard time making it in the US and need all of the help that they can get. The aisian shrimp, and crawfish too, for that matter, are being sold at way below market prices or what they can possibly produce them for and it is making for some seriously hard times for people that have been doing this for a hundred years or more. I can't do much about it, but I can choose to buy the local catch. I wish more people would do the same.

I am lucky enough to have a personal shrimper, which is a very good thing to have :laugh: (beats a personal trainer any day of the week) I call him up, and he tells me when to pick up the shrimp. Also, our farmers market has a couple of guys who sell them fresh during most of the year, and they are great as long as you don't mind a mixed size situation.

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Nope... No farm raised... No imports. I will take mine from the Gulf or bay, thank you very much. I am lucky enough to know my sources (all less than 5 miles or so from where I live) so I can pick and choose. The bay boats don't stay out so those are typically "fresh off the boat". It depends on the season. Out of season, I do not hesitate to pick up IFF Gulf shrimp.

I don't know much at all about your area but here are some strategies for getting to know what is available:

Find out what commercial fisheries are active in your area. Your state dept of wildlife and fisheries or some such will probably have a lot of information on their website.

Armed with that information, search out seafood markets around harbors where the boats come in.

Talk to the market folks about where they get their stuff. Go there on a slow day in the middle of the week and they will probably talk your arm off.

If you frequent any popular local seafood "joints" ask them where they get their seafood. Again, if you go at a slow time, the chef or manager may be willing to share.

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Good info from you both.

Talk to the market folks about where they get their stuff. Go there on a slow day in the middle of the week and they will probably talk your arm off.
Actually I do that, and that is how I found out about where our guy gets his, as I mentioned above. To my knowledge the boats I was talking about, which I see from the beach, are out for one day trips. In season, of course.

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the US shrimpers. The last time I went to the supermarket for fresh shrimp, they didn't have any -- only imported on sale, very cheap. I did without, and waited until I could drive to our guy at the seafood market. It was after his hours.

Speaking of crawfish, I haven't seen much mention of them in this discussion about gumbo, etc. Any reason in particular? The only time I ate any significant amount was at that Jambalaya Jam festival.

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I've never seen crawfish in Gumbo, and I really don't know why - maybe MM or fifi know??? They'd be too messy to eat if you put them whole - worse than crabs. I guess you could add a package in your Gumbo along with the oysters...? To me, crawfish are best left for boils, or in etouffee. There really is nothing better than crawfish etouffee. The crawfish fat adds so much flavor. I can't wait till MM posts his etouffee recipe!!!

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Now that you mention it, the scarcity of crawfish tails in gumbo is strange. I have seen it in restaurants but only rarely. I even made some one time when I had "access" to large bags of peeled tails. :wink: As I recall, I probably only did that once and found that they just didn't add that much to the dish. I prefer the etouffee preparation since the flavor seems to come through better. I really don't know why this is the case. Maybe when MM recovers from the wrath of the gods, he can enlighten us on this critical issue. :biggrin:

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Here's a northerer with a question for all of you experts:

What is the general consensu on gumbo file powder? Do you use it? Is it a sin?

We sell it at the store I work at and was wondering if it has a purpose in authentic gumbo.

Shannon

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I use it sometimes. It is absolutely authentic and certainly not a sin. In fact, it is a pretty common ingredient on the table in Louisiana restaurants. If it isn't on the table, you just ask. If they don't have any, leave. :raz:

The purpose is mainly to add thickening and texture. If you don't know already, file is ground up sassafras leaves. It doesn't really have a strong flavor and certainly not like sassafras. (Root beer gumbo? :wacko: ) In the really dark gumbos, the flour has lost most of its thickening power and the gumbo is on the thin side. You don't add it to the pot and cook it in because it can get kind of slimy.

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Hello from London... Wait, seriously, I am a Cajun living in London and have been cooking gumbo since I was 13, and probably drank it from the bottle. I think that roux is the defining element of gumbo. Without roux all you have is soup. My mother's family is from Mamou, where they made a chicken, andouille and tasso (smoked pork) gumbo in a dark roux, with no okra or tomatoes. My father's family from Delcambre (a small town near New Iberia whose main industry is/was shrimping) preferred shrimp and okra gumbo with a dark roux and no tomatoes. I didn't have a light roux and tomatoes in my gumbo until I moved to New Orleans.

My favorite is Shrimp and Okra gumbo (excellent at Don's Seafood in downtown Lafayette). I make it with a dark roux, of course, and shrimp stock that I make from the peelings of the raw shrimp. I use medium sized raw shrimp that I put in the gumbo just before serving so they don't overcook; However, to get a deep, rich shrimp flavor, I make a stock by browning the shrimp peelings in vegetable oil with salt and cayenne pepper, add garlic and water and simmer for a half hour then strain.

:wacko:

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Welcome to eGullet leleux! We will certainly be looking forward to your next production... "A Cajun Cooks in London". :biggrin:

When RecipeGullet is back up and running (server upgrade going on), please take a look at my recipe and see if I have left out any tips for making a dark roux.

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    • By HoneyMustard
      Pennstation's Honey Mustard taste so good, but they don't sell it in stores like Big Boy Frisch's sells their tartar sauce.

      I am assuming they buy it in bulk from a certain name brand. Does anyone know what that brand is or at least a similar Honey Mustard recipe?
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