Real Cajun Cooking lets you choose from hundreds of authentic Cajun recipes. Learn to easily prepare and cook original Cajun-style family meals with help from south Louisiana's Cajun cook and connoisseur, Jacques Gaspard, who's been preparing great Cajun meals for several decades. Create the best gumbos, seafood, jambalaya, stews,, salads and deserts – the way they were originally prepared. Besides great original recipes, you will discover a hodgepodge of stories, recordings, music, videos and humorous anecdotes to entertain. So enjoy! Don't forget to tell all of your family and friends about Real Cajun Cooking. They will thank you for it.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What Makes A Gumbo A Gumbo?

What is gumbo? There are two types.

A Cajun gumbo can be a combination of meats and vegetables slow-cooked in an all-purpose flour-based roux which, along with the flavors of the 3 main vegetables (onions, celery and bell peppers), adds a nuttier taste to the soup.

Or, it can be a Creole gumbo--a lighter and more translucent soup which is slow-cooked in a well-prepared tomato base and includes onions, celery and okra along with the choices of meats.

Both types include mostly the same basic ingredients -- meats and/or seafood and vegetables.

The vegetables in the Creole types of gumbos are added in stages and at the right moments to retain their individual flavors and crispness, while the Cajun type gumbos usually incorporate the main vegetables at the beginning of the cooking process. Garlic, green onions and parsley are usually added toward the end of the cycle.

The Cajun gumbos rely on the all-purpose flour-based roux to create taste and flavor. By manipulating the color of the roux during its preparation, one can also change the taste of the gumbo. Cajun gumbos usually do not include tomatoes or file'. And, not all gumbos include okra.

The roux in a Cajun gumbo continues to absorb the spices and flavors long after the cooking process is done. That's why good gumbos always seem to taste better the following day.

This is not the case with Creole gumbos which rely on citric and malic acid-based vegetables, such as tomatoes, for flavoring. Fish Courtbouillon is a Creole dish which is akin to this method of cooking with tomatoes. The fish used to make the meal is usually added toward the end of the cooking time, less it disintegrates and mixes in with the vegetables.

Roux ... the color of the roux will have a direct bearing on the taste of your gumbos. You can use a light peanut-butter colored roux for fricassees and stews, or you can choose to use a darker chocolate-colored roux for gumbos and piquants. It eventually becomes a matter of personal preference.

Stock ... the stock that you create should have no more than a teaspoon of salt added to the water--just enough to draw-out all the flavors of the meats and vegetables, but it can include any other unsalted spices (black pepper, red pepper, bay leaves, etc) so that you can get an idea of what your gumbo will begin to taste like before adding the roux. Chicken stock made from the skin and bones of the bird adds a heightened flavor to certain gumbos and, likewise, the shrimp and fish-head stocks greatly enhances the flavors of seafood gumbos and stews.

Meats ... certain kinds of meats, seafood and vegetables go together better than others. For example, you can mix chicken and smoked sausage, chicken and shrimp, shrimp and sausage … the list goes on … and these can include okra. However, a wild duck and oyster gumbo is an example where okra just doesn't fit in. Okra would merely thicken a gumbo which is meant to be on the thinner side. The same goes with crab gumbos and stews. You will, after a few hits and misses, learn which meats, vegetables and seafood go together and those that don't.

Vegetables ... knowing when to add the vegetables to the cooking pot will certainly enhance the taste of your meals. As previously mentioned, Creole dishes must be prepared with care and diligence. Adding the vegetables to your brew at the proper times will make your gumbos better tasting. The popular trinity of vegetables (onions, celery and bell peppers) can be and should be added to your Cajun gumbos at the beginning so they can quickly cook and meld into the stock. You should add the garlic, green onions and parsley toward the end of the cooking cycle so as not to cook-out their unique flavors. This makes all the difference in the world with respect to taste.

Spices ... use spices sparingly if you have certain guest which are spice-intolerant. In a pinch, you can always add your spices after the gumbo is served without sacrificing too much flavor.

Techniques ... slow and low-heat cooking is always best. Remember that roux takes a long time to cook, less you get a slightly bitter tasting gumbo. Take your time, do it right, and folks will be begging for your recipe, or at the very least, they will be asking you for seconds.


Keep in mind that once you learn the basics of making gumbos, the whole world becomes your oyster. Who knows? You may someday create a gumbo which is world-class.

Bon appetite! Ahheee!!

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3 comments:

  1. Oh Jacques, I made one tonight. It was an "old style" fried chicken and andouille gumbo. I used to read the old cooks put whole pieces of chicken, skin, bones, and all, into the gumbo. I got the idea of flouring and frying the chicken pieces from Chef Donald Link from Lake Charles. I used 10 nice drumlegs, as Justin Wilson used to call them.

    Oh man it was so good, it'd bring your tongue to its knees. I love your blog. We use the dame background.

    RouxBDoo

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  2. Very nice, thank you.

    I was unaware of the distinction of cajun and creale styled gumbos--this makes sense.

    I probably make a cajun style gumbo (distinction made thanks to your post) about 3 times a month and I really agree on your point to take your time.

    I am going to have to study up on the creole gumbo stuff...hmmmm.....

    You got me thinking!

    cordially,

    t.

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  3. Jacques, I made my first gumbo a few weeks ago using your recipe. It was the first time I ever attempted a roux as well. I am pleased to report that it all turned out fabulous!! Everyone that tried it wanted more. It may have been one of the best dishes I have ever cooked. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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