Contributed by Kristin Ryals
Who doesn’t enjoy a taste of a Louisiana gumbo? It’s a perfect treat any time of the day! Whatever your gumbo is made of, be it chicken, sausage or seafood, it always tastes better the following day! There’s something about this stew that seems to enhance the flavor every time you reheat it!
Gumbo originated from Southern Louisiana in the 1800’s. It consists primarily of a flavorful stock and a combination of celery, onion, and bell pepper (locals refer to this as the “holy trinity of vegetables”). A gumbo always starts with these ingredients.
The characteristic heavy sauce is thickened using okra or roux. The thicker the sauce, the more appetizing it is!
Variations of Gumbo
There is no governing rule when it comes to cooking gumbo. The cooking time is shortened when you are using seafood. Meat takes longer on the stove and is simmered until thick. It takes a long time before it reaches your stomach, but it is always worth the effort and wait! Because of the long cooking time, it is advised to cook in large batches and store the rest in the fridge for later consumption. It also lasts fairly long in the freezer.
Pro Tip: You can pack it in individual servings and set in the freezer for convenience.
You can use chicken to make a gumbo. Deboned, skinless chicken thighs make a great dish. You can also use sausage to make it. There is not much difference in the preparation of the base. The flavor melds perfectly with the type of meat you choose. If you want to make seafood gumbo, make sure that you don’t cook it for too long. Seafood cooks faster than meat and should be placed in the last few minutes of cooking to avoid overcooking it. Aside from these, you can mix and match any combination you want! In fact, there is no rule that prevents you from mixing all three! This ultimate gumbo combo is something you want to cook in really, really large batch and save for later, say, save for the remainder of the year?
How to Thicken Gumbo With the Perfect Roux
Before diving in the thick gumbo sauce, let us see what makes a good roux.
Okra already helps thicken the gumbo, but to achieve that thick stew, roux is needed. Don’t be afraid to make a roux; it can be a little intimidating for first-time cooks. But after successfully using a roux as a thickener for your gumbo, you’ll be confident in using it in any recipe that requires thickening.
The usual ratio of a roux is 1 part oil or animal fat and 1 part flour. Using lard or tallow enhances the flavor of your recipe. Animal fat is already flavorful and using it in your roux to thicken gumbo will result in a heavenly thick sauce!
Making Your Roux
First-time cooks tend to be concerned mainly about lumps in the end product. Don’t worry because the main purpose of making a roux is to avoid lumps in any sauce thickened with it!
Using a skillet, heat your vegetable oil or animal fat over medium heat. Be careful when using butter, as butter can get bitter when heated too much.
Gradually add flour while whisking it to avoid lumps. Add a small portion at a time. Wait for it to dissolve before adding more.
Stir continuously. Do not leave your roux unattended, as the flour can easily get toasted. If it starts to smoke, it can turn bitter, and there will be no reversing it. You’ll have to start over.
Thickening Your Gumbo
Now that you have your roux ready, you can use it to thicken your gumbo.
Once you have cooked all the meat together with the stock and chopped vegetables in a pot, it’s time to finish with the flavor and thicken your sauce. Regulating the heat carefully and stirring occasionally is the key to making thick gumbo stew. Add a few ounces of roux at a time and cook for a few minutes before adding more. Make sure you stir in between and check for your desired consistency. Make sure your sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. If you don’t mix it well, a burnt layer may form and may give your gumbo a bitter taste. The longer it takes on the stove, the darker and thicker your sauce will be. The long cooking time perfectly melds all the flavor together while thickening your gumbo. In about three hours of simmering, you will get a thick reddish sauce. If you want a lighter sauce, you can shorten the cooking time.
If you are mixing seafood in your gumbo recipe, make sure to add it in the last ten minutes of cooking. Doing this leaves your seafood tender. Overcooking your seafood will leave it chewy and undesirable.
A gumbo stew is a delicious and enjoyable meal you can eat with steamed rice or pilaf. It requires you to prepare the holy trinity of vegetable and a flavorful stock, to begin. This base ingredient is famous in Louisianan cuisine. The characteristic thick, flavorful sauce of a gumbo stew is attributed to the use of okra and roux. Using animal fat for your roux can greatly enhance this already tasty recipe. Preparing roux may be intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. In simple terms, it’s just like melting flour in hot vegetable or animal fat. When you master that, you can freely use it as a thickener in other recipes.
Gumbo is a tasty meal, and I hope I have helped you make it thicker! If you want someone to learn how to thicken gumbo, feel free to share this page! Leave a comment below if you have found this post meaningful.
About the Author:
My name is Kristin, and I’m a housewife with big love for cooking. When I’m not bringing on the Food Network and attempting to become America’s Next Top Chef, I’m browsing online for unique recipes to awe my friends with. Now I ‘m a founder and main editor for Taste Insight, my blog about nutrition and vegetarian food!