Gumbo - different approaches?

Morning Glory

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It seems there are many different recipes for gumbo and some contain tomatoes although others rely on a dark roux to provide the sauce. Is there a difference between Creole & Cajun Gumbo? This isn't a quest for authenticity (no such thing really, as we all know) but about how those of you who make gumbo go about it.

Please debate and tell us your tips and tricks...
 

Elawin

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I've never made it, but I do make some Middle Eastern (Iranian) foods that have okra in them and they have plenty of tomatoes. In fact, when I cook okra, I always cook tomatoes with it too. In my murky past in a Grenadian part of Brixton/Battersea we often had okra with tomatoes.
 

medtran49

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Creole was the term given to the descendants of the settlers from France, Spain, Portugal, etc., usually people of at least some means (a lot of "second" sons of wealthy families). Creole food came about because the Old World ladies had trouble reproducing their recipes in the New World due to some things just not being available or available in quantity, and ended up having to rely on their slaves/domestics to help them adapt to what was readily available, as well as the "melting pot" effect of the different cultures. So, the original roots of Creole were actually Old World, with the addition/substitution of New World products and the African/Caribbean black influence.

The easiest way to differentiate between Cajun and Creole food is that Cajun is more country-style cooking and Creole is more city-style cooking. However, as time goes by, the 2 are merging more and more and becoming less distinct.

The original Cajun food included things that were readily available from trapping, fishing, hunting, etc. I'll guarantee you it was a Cajun that first tried crawfish. City folk would have eaten shrimp, oysters and fish long before eating something like crawfish. The Creole food is going to have the fancy sauces from France and will be more refined than Cajun, which basically is good home cooking.

We always make a roux as I'm not fond of okra or file. I've never seen a recipe in our Prudhomme, Wilson, or Emeril cookbooks that uses tomatoes, though after Googling I see that there are, though there seems to be a bit of controversy over whether tomatoes in any form, fresh, canned, or paste, belong in gumbo. Personally, I don't think I would want paste or canned in my gumbo. Maybe chopped fresh added in at the very last for freshness and color would be okay, but the others, just no, that doesn't sound good to me at all.

Some reference links if anybody is interested.

Louisiana's Food Traditions: An Insider's Guide

New Orleans Creole or Cajun? Here's how to tell

Experience Great Cajun & Creole Food and Recipes with Chef John Folse & Co.

Cajun vs. Creole - Escoffier
 
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ElizabethB

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medtran49
A good synopsis.
For generations there has been controversy about gumbo.
In south central Louisiana (Cajun Country) gumbo is not gumbo unless it is made with a roux
Chicken and sausage gumbo- a very dark roux
Seafood gumbo - a medium to medium dark roux
Shrimp and okra gumbo - a medium to medium light roux
Tomatoes are NEVER used in a Cajun gumbo
Creole gumbo (New Orleans gumbo) is often made with a tomato base. Roux may or may not be used.
Gumbo file - ground sassafras leaves
I always add file (lots) to my gumbo at the end of cooking. I also have file on the table. I am an evil woman. DIL claims to hate file. She slurps up my gumbo like a pig at a trough.
In some other life I will probably be punished for the food deceptions I have pulled on her.
Back to the topic.
medtran49 is correct. Creole is considered a more refined, city style of cooking while Cajun is a more rustic, use what you have, bayou/country style.
I am Cajun of French Acadian decent. When asked how to make a gumbo "First you make a roux. "
 

caseydog

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Creole was the term given to the descendants of the settlers from France, Spain, Portugal, etc., usually people of at least some means (a lot of "second" sons of wealthy families). Creole food came about because the Old World ladies had trouble reproducing their recipes in the New World due to some things just not being available or available in quantity, and ended up having to rely on their slaves/domestics to help them adapt to what was readily available, as well as the "melting pot" effect of the different cultures. So, the original roots of Creole were actually Old World, with the addition/substitution of New World products and the African/Caribbean black influence.

The easiest way to differentiate between Cajun and Creole food is that Cajun is more country-style cooking and Creole is more city-style cooking. However, as time goes by, the 2 are merging more and more and becoming less distinct.

The original Cajun food included things that were readily available from trapping, fishing, hunting, etc. I'll guarantee you it was a Cajun that first tried crawfish. City folk would have eaten shrimp, oysters and fish long before eating something like crawfish. The Creole food is going to have the fancy sauces from France and will be more refined than Cajun, which basically is good home cooking.

We always make a roux as I'm not fond of okra or file. I've never seen a recipe in our Prudhomme, Wilson, or Emeril cookbooks that uses tomatoes, though after Googling I see that there are, though there seems to be a bit of controversy over whether tomatoes in any form, fresh, canned, or paste, belong in gumbo. Personally, I don't think I would want paste or canned in my gumbo. Maybe chopped fresh added in at the very last for freshness and color would be okay, but the others, just no, that doesn't sound good to me at all.

Some reference links if anybody is interested.

Louisiana's Food Traditions: An Insider's Guide

New Orleans Creole or Cajun? Here's how to tell

Experience Great Cajun & Creole Food and Recipes with Chef John Folse & Co.

Cajun vs. Creole - Escoffier
Medtran and ElizebethB pretty much covered it.

I grew up in cajun country. So, that's how I learned to make gumbo. Tomatoes don't show up in cajun cooking very often, and I've never seen tomatoes in cajun gumbo. The most important part of a cajun gumbo is making a good roux, without burning it. If you can pull that off, you have the hardest part done. Here is one of mine. It was a "chocolate" roux for a chicken and andouille gumbo. A chocolate roux doesn't look pretty, but it makes the gumbo right. Chocolate refers to the color, obviously.

ChocolatRoux.jpg


I use okra in my gumbo, but I add it early so the "slime" cooks out. I don't care for file, but put a jar on the table for people who like it.

And, the glamour shot...

Gumbo12-17.jpg


CD
 

ElizabethB

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caseydog
Your roux looks lovely
A tip on using okra
Melt a little butter and EVOO in a cast iron skillet and slightly fry the okra before adding to the gumbo
Slime fries out. Okra can be added at the end of the cooking process to retain flavor and texture.
 

caseydog

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caseydog
Your roux looks lovely
A tip on using okra
Melt a little butter and EVOO in a cast iron skillet and slightly fry the okra before adding to the gumbo
Slime fries out. Okra can be added at the end of the cooking process to retain flavor and texture.
Thanks! I have never been told that before. I will try it.

CD
 

medtran49

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Craig nearly always makes our gumbo and we generally make chicken and andouille, though do use seafood from time to time. We use an enamel over cast iron pot. For the chicken and andouille, he takes the roux to red brown, pulls the pan off the heat, and adds the trinity. The pan holds enough residual heat to finish taking the roux to black and start cooking the veges, while the pan cools a bit The pan then goes back on the heat at low and we start adding broth. He made some recently.

34003
 

epicuric

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I see now where I went wrong. The okra was fine, having cooked down with the trinity. However, I made the roux with shellfish stock, and then added tinned tomatoes. The resulting flavour was quite overpowering, not unlike a rich ragout made with fish stock. I've no idea what a gumbo is supposed to taste like, but I'm sure it shouldn't taste like mine did. If anyone cares to post an authentic recipe I will happily give it another try. Probably in a few weeks time, when the memory of my first attempt has faded away.
 

caseydog

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I see now where I went wrong. The okra was fine, having cooked down with the trinity. However, I made the roux with shellfish stock, and then added tinned tomatoes. The resulting flavour was quite overpowering, not unlike a rich ragout made with fish stock. I've no idea what a gumbo is supposed to taste like, but I'm sure it shouldn't taste like mine did. If anyone cares to post an authentic recipe I will happily give it another try. Probably in a few weeks time, when the memory of my first attempt has faded away.
I don't have a written recipe. I have just done it enough times to know what to do. If you use okra, don't cook it with your trinity. Add that during the long simmer. Don't mix meat and seafood in one gumbo. Chicken and sausage is the most common gumbo. Seafood gumbo just has seafood. Andouille sausage is traditional, but can be hard to find, depending on where you live. So, use what ever quality smoked sausage your can get.

Here is a great YouTube video. It has great tips, such as prep your trinity before you start your roux, and NEVER walk away from your roux while it is cooking it down to a dark roux. NEVER!

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76JXtB7JFQY&t=110s



CD
 

Morning Glory

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The most important part of a cajun gumbo is making a good roux, without burning it. If you can pull that off, you have the hardest part done. Here is one of mine. It was a "chocolate" roux for a chicken and andouille gumbo. A chocolate roux doesn't look pretty, but it makes the gumbo right. Chocolate refers to the color, obviously.
The dark roux is something I've never made - well I never made gumbo either (a situation which needs addressing). I understand it can be tricky to master the roux but I'd love to try it. The brown roux is very specific to this type of cuisine and is not really seen in other types of cooking (to my knowledge).

Gumbo file - ground sassafras leaves
This isn't something seen in the UK and now of course I have to get some to try! I'm sure I can get some on-line.
 

epicuric

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I don't have a written recipe. I have just done it enough times to know what to do. If you use okra, don't cook it with your trinity. Add that during the long simmer. Don't mix meat and seafood in one gumbo. Chicken and sausage is the most common gumbo. Seafood gumbo just has seafood. Andouille sausage is traditional, but can be hard to find, depending on where you live. So, use what ever quality smoked sausage your can get.

Here is a great YouTube video. It has great tips, such as prep your trinity before you start your roux, and NEVER walk away from your roux while it is cooking it down to a dark roux. NEVER!

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76JXtB7JFQY&t=110s



CD
Oops - I got it mostly wrong! Thanks for the tips!
 

CraigC

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Paul Prudhomme has a fast roux method done over high heat. It takes a bit longer than the 5 minutes he suggests. It takes practice to know when to pull the pot off the heat during prep. I burned the roux the first time I use this method. I made a long cooked roux once for a crab gumbo, but recall that Karen wasn't overly fond of it. I use file as a condiment at table. I watched a show once where the host, John Folse, made okra gumbo with a Houma woman. I've had okra before just don't remember how it was prepared. Karen doesn't like it
 
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There are a few things we can agree on when it comes to gumbo:

1) All gumbos must involve the Trinity
2) It's unlikely you'll find much more agreement than that from most people.

I've seen gumbo recipes that don't use a roux, but I have to say that they're missing that essential something...that thing I call fried chicken flavor. A roux is made from flour and oil, so that's basically what you have.

I have used tomatoes in my gumbos, which made sense since I've almost always made seafood gumbos of various types. Tomatoes seem to be a natural pairing for seafood. And, Emeril has used tomatoes in gumbo, so that's good enough for me:

https://www.emerils.com/126624/shrimp-okra-and-tomato-gumbo

I've made a variation of this recipe that adds okra:

Recipe - Shrimp and Oyster Gumbo

ayz5x8gfsls78fbd8o9m_img_0817-jpg.jpg


Yes, I know that roux and okra are typically looked at as an either/or sort of thing. But, with so many interpretations of what makes a gumbo, I figured it wouldn't hurt. And, it didn't.

I read once that the secret to getting the roux right was to heat it until it resembles the color of chocolate. This has never failed me.

I also love adding corn to gumbo, and I consider it essential. But, then again, I love adding corn to a lot of things that aren't commonly considered requirements (like chili), so that might just be me.
 
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