Today we’re talking about gumbo! No, not the Phish song, but the classic creole dish that New Orleans is known for. This is a Dan-good take on this beloved dish with a rich roux, and plenty of spicy creole flavor. Don’t worry if you’ve never made a roux, or gumbo before because we’re gonna make it so Dan easy you’ll feel like a pro!
Like so many southern, and creole dishes really, gumbo has its origins in West Africa. Gumbo comes from the African word “ki ngombo” which translates to “okra”. West Africans often used okra as the thickener in their version of the dish. West African gumbo was a little different than our version, it was stew-like, thickened with okra as you might imagine, and contained fish and shellfish. When the West Africans were forced to America during the transatlantic slavery period, they would carry pods of okra in their hair which is how okra was introduced to the Americas.
South Louisiana gumbo is the fusion of not just West African culture but Native American and European as well. Okra is still used as the thickener to some, but the Native Americans introduced file’ powder. Many cooks used file’ to flavor and thicken the gumbo. File’ is made of dried sassafras leaves that are ground into a powder. The European contribution was using a roux as the thickener instead. The roux method is the most popular method in the modern age.
When it comes to gumbo, you’re going to need a roux. A roux is a blend of fat and flour, it’s the basis of a variety of sauces, and soups. You can use almost any type of fat, and different types of fat will give you different flavors. The typical ratio of a roux is about 1:1 of both fat and flour. When it comes to gumbo there are two types: Cajun and Creole gumbo. The main difference between the two is the roux that’s used. Creole gumbo uses butter as the fat, and is the more traditional version. Meanwhile Cajun gumbo uses a neutral oil with a smoke point and is a little more modern.
There’s 4 types of Roux: White, Blond,Brown, and Dark Brown. Whites take about 2-5 minutes and are typically a light tan color. They add a little flavor, and are mainly used for gravy or bechamel sauces. Blond roux's take about 5-10 minutes and is more of a peanut butter color. They add a toasted flavor, and are good for bisques or creamy soups. Brown roux takes about 15-30 minutes and is a milk chocolate color. They begin thinning out at this point,and are great for etouffee and gumbo. Dark brown roux is a dark chocolate color and takes about 30-45 minutes. They offer a rich complex flavor, and are great for gumbo. If you need a quick reference, consult our guide below!