Gumbo (First, Make a Roux - in the Oven)

The Recipe: A classic Cajun gumbo except that the roux is baked in the oven to a rich mahogany color instead of by stirring-stirring-stirring over a hot stove. Another win from the geniuses at Cook's Illustrated! Let the oven do the stirring! Even the Gumbo King is impressed!
Gumbo ♥ KitchenParade.com, a classic Cajun gumbo except that the roux is cooked in the oven. Let the oven do the stirring!


Cooking Roux in the Oven: A Foolhardy Shortcut?

Every good gumbo – and according to some, every good Cajun dish – starts off with a roux, a silky fat and flour mixture cooked to colors ranging from Mardi-Gras gold to black-as-voodoo.

Instead, this gumbo recipe uses Cook's Illustrated's almost-no-stirring technique where the roux [pronounced ROO] is baked in the oven to a rich mahogany color.

My Gumbo King thought the oven shortcut foolhardy and unnecessary but came away impressed by the results. "Seriously terrific gumbo," he called it, then paid the ultimate compliment, "Justin Wilson would be proud."

A Traditional Roux: Stirring and Patience

If you asked the storied Cajun humorist Justin Wilson "What's for dinner?" he'd answer, "Whaddaya got?" Except that's not quite right – in fact, he would probably say, "First, make a roux. NOW whaddaya got?"

A roux isn't hard to make. In fact, home cooks make a quick roux called a white sauce every time we briefly cook butter and flour as a thickener for soup, cheese sauce, etc. All it takes is fat, flour, heat and patience.

Patience comes into play because a good roux, a pitch-dark roux, takes time. Find yourself a stool and a spoon and just stir and stir and stir and then stir some more, never letting up, never letting the mixture separate or burn, letting the color and flavor develop.

A traditional roux takes an hour, some times longer.


Here, Let the Oven Do the Stirring

As they are wont to do, Cook's Illustrated turned that traditional formula upside down, putting the roux-maker out to pasture by letting the oven do the stirring.

Praise be, the technique works like a charm.


Plus a Surprise Ingredient

Cook's Illustrated also uses an unusual ingredient that boosts the seafood dimension of the gumbo. It's fish sauce, the salty liquid so common in Thai and other Asian cuisines. I had no trouble finding a bottle on the Asian shelf in my everyday supermarket. In the pantry, not the fridge, it keeps for a long time.

Fish sauce has a distinct flavor, I use it occasionally in recipes here, see recipes calling for fish sauce.

But if you can't find a bottle, then I'd suggest shelling the shrimp while the roux cooks. Then make a simple fish stock by cooking the shells with 5 cups of water, an onion, a carrot, a rib of celery, simmering for an hour to cook down to about 4 cups. Use this shrimp stock instead of chicken stock.


Shortcut Gumbo?

I started to call this recipe "Shortcut Gumbo" because honestly, I took shortcuts at every turn, using garlic from a jar, bouillon cubes instead of homemade chicken stock. But two hours of hands-on time is hardly an every-day cooking session.

Even so, gumbo is no high art. It's Cajun peasant food, completely forgiving, so long as it starts with a good roux.


What Is Gumbo Filé?

Filé adds authentic flavor to gumbo, many consider it an essential ingredient. It's no more than the finely ground dried leaves from a sassafras tree so doesn't look like much, just greenish-gray powder.

Odds are good you can find filé powder in the spice section of a well-stocked grocery store. Otherwise, yep, gumbo filé is sold online.


Make Gumbo, Make the Party

Gumbo makes great party food! In these parts, it's tradition to serve gumbo on Christmas Eve afternoon.

Then last year, we made a big pot of gumbo for a Mardi Gras party complete with a crawfish boil in the back yard, the kitchen table spread with newspapers for easy clean-up of the shells.

I made a second pot of Vegan Chickpea Gumbo for our vegetarian and vegan friends plus a big pot of moist white rice and for contrast, a pot of grits, either Microwave Green Chili Cheese Grits or Slow Cooker Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin or Butternut Squash) Grits.

We finished with on-the-spot bananas Foster and passed plates of Bourbon Pralines.

Looking for more ideas for a Mardi Gras gathering? Check the Mardi Gras recipes!


Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

Let the good times roll!


More Inspiration



GUMBO

Hands-on time: 2 hours
Time to table: 4 hours
Makes 16 cups
    FIRST, MAKE A ROUX
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    START THE GUMBO
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 large poblano pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 rib celery, chopped fine
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (see TIPS)
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomato
  • 4 cups chicken broth, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 pounds chicken, preferably boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into small pieces and seasoned with black pepper
    JUST BEFORE SERVING
  • 16 ounces frozen okra, thawed to room temperature
  • 2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved
  • 8 ounces andouille sausage, chopped small
  • Salt & pepper to taste
    FOR SERVING
  • Cooked rice, Oven-Baked Brown Rice is great
  • Filé powder, also called gumbo filé (don't skip this)

FIRST, MAKE A ROUX Place an oven rack in the lowest position, heat oven to 350F/180C.

In a large heavy Dutch oven, toast the 3/4 cup flour on medium heat, stirring continuously. It will take some time for the flour to begin to cook, watch for a little smoke rising, then observe the texture change and the color to almost imperceptibly begin to darken. This takes about 10 minutes, stirring continuously, keeping a close eye.

Remove from the heat and stir in the oil, a bit at a time. If little chunks of "fried flour" form, try to break them up, if not, at the end, fish them out.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir well, don't be alarmed by what appear to be dark chunks, these are easy to stir out. According to Cook's Illustrated, a roux can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a week. If so, bring the roux back to a boil before continuing.

START THE GUMBO Over medium heat on the stovetop, stir the onion, poblano pepper and green pepper into the hot roux. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, 1 tablespoon flour and cayenne, cook for about 1 minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, cook until the liquid is absorbed into the gumbo about 1 minute.

A splashful at a time at first, stir in chicken broth and fish sauce, letting the liquid become fully absorbed by the gumbo before adding more. Take your time here, it will pay off in texture.

Stir in the seasoned chicken and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

IF ADDING SOME OKRA, SHRIMP & ANDOUILLE EARLY (see TIPS) Stir in about 1/4 the okra, shrimp and andouille, then return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for another 30 minutes.

IF MAKING AHEAD Stop here, let cool, cover and refrigerate for a day or so. Before serving, return to a simmer.

JUST BEFORE SERVING Stir in the andouille and let heat through. Stir in the okra and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes or until the shrimp is fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasonings.

TO SERVE Place a spoonful or two of cooked rice in a bowl, top with gumbo and sprinkle with filé powder.

ALANNA's TIPS This recipe makes a huge pot of gumbo, great for a Mardi Gras party but perhaps a lot for a family. I don't recommend halving the roux itself, however, just make the full amount and save half for another dish or discard. While the roux bakes, do yourself a favor and prep the remainder of the ingredients, it'll help things move along once the roux is done. If your andouille sausage is spicy, consider using less cayenne pepper. I do NOT recommend a supermarket variety of andouille from Johnsonville Sausage which is no more than a bad hot dog, no andouille spices at all. The thing about gumbo, it's just better if it gets a chance to rest for at least a couple of hours before serving, either on the stove a-simmerin' away or in the fridge overnight. But the other thing is, you really want to add the shrimp and okra just before serving, keeping both fresh-cooked. My compromise is to add about a fourth of the shrimp and okra (and the andouille, for good measure) early, then, just before serving, to add the rest. Gumbo is served with rice. Unless you're making the gumbo ahead of time, make Oven-Baked Brown Rice (another recipe from Cook's Illustrated!) as soon as the roux is done baking, while the oven's still hot.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 279 Calories; 11g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 127mg Cholesterol; 685mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 29g Protein WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 6 & WW Points Plus 7 & WW SmartPoints 7 & WW Freestyle 5

More Favorite Shrimp Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Easy Shrimp Bites Lazy Man's Ciopinno, Shrimp & Fish Stew Shrimp with Tomatoes, Spinach & Feta
~ more shrimp recipes ~

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ poblano pepper recipes ~
~ chicken recipes ~
~ okra recipes ~
~ shrimp recipes ~
~ sausage recipes ~
~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

Comments

  1. Mardi gras gold and Black-as-voodoo - what great colour descriptions :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love Justin Wilson! His programs are such a hoot. Anyway, this is a terrific post. I've never done the oven roux thing, but it makes total sense. I've read freezing roux works quite well - need to try this. Great post - I haven't made gumbo for ages, now you've got me thinking! Thanks for this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous2/15/2012

    Alanna, can you freeze the leftover roux if you're halving the recipe?

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a great idea to make the roux in the oven and save all the hands on time. We love gumbo, so I'll have to give that a try next time I make a pot.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can't wait to try this recipe. BTW, I called my Barnes & Noble to reserve a copy of "The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2012..." and was told it costs $35.00. Nobody had heard of it being offered for less. Bummed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Savannagal ~ Hmm, you know, is it possible that the phone people just "look it up" and get the online price? The price printed on the cover is $10 not $35. Maybe if you just go in ...

    I was quite taken by a number of the recipes here, enough that I purchased it, despite having MORE than enough cookbooks and recipe ideas already. The gumbo alone was worth the price --

    ReplyDelete
  7. Denise ~ John said that he hears roux can be frozen, but just to test, we are making another roux (without shortcuts, cooked "black as a carpetbaggers heart" I am told ;-)) for another gumbo tonight.

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  8. Hi Alanna,

    I tried this recipe for my first-ever gumbo. For the most part it seemed great, but the gumbo itself was very acidic. I don;t mean it was too spicy - while it packed some heat that wasn;t a problem.

    I'm wondering whether the canned tomatoes (15-oz can of Hunt's - should have been fine) or perhaps the fish sauce (Vietnamese, seemed pretty standard) contributed to this. My roux came out just about the same color as your photo, so I don;t think that was the issue.

    Any input?

    Thanks, Mark

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mark ~ I’m as stumped as you, wouldn’t have thought that gumbo could ever turn out “very acidic”. We made a huge pot for Christmas Eve, no issues at all, and we’re not particular about either the canned tomatoes or the fish sauce.

    Did you add something to balance the acidity? No letting a potentially good gumbo go to waste!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I made this yesterday, it was hours of work, but very good! I added more celery than called for in recipe & left out the okra. Turned out great.

    ReplyDelete

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna