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Oct 10, 2005 09:16 AM

Gumbo - amount of flour in a roux

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I am going to make a gumbo tomorrow. After looking at a number of recipes - I am surprised at the differences in flour and oil used in the roux - all using roughly the same amount of liquid. I am going to use around 7.5 cups of stock. I have seen recipes with 1/2 cup oil and flour - 1 cup oil and flour, and 1.5 cups oil and flour. It is a chicken and andouile sausage gumbo. Any thougts or suggestions would be appreciated.

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  1. k
    King of Northern Blvd.

    I made a Paul Prudhomme recipe recently that used I cup of flour and oil...I cooked the rue long and slow to get it very dark...It was used with 6 cups of stock..I thought the gumbo tasted oily at first but the next day it tasted fantastic. Maybe I was put of by the amount of oil I new was in there...

    1. It depends a bit on how thick you like your gumbo and how dark you like to cook your roux (it loses its thickening power when it's cooked more). Chicken and andouille gumbo is one of my favorites - I usually make a batch about half the size of yours (4 cups broth) and cook the roux to a red-brown stage. I use a half cup flour, which would of course be equivalent to 1 cup for you. I know most recipes specify equal amounts of oil and flour for a roux, but I've found I can cut back on the oil a bit and still get a good roux with a somewhat less greasy final product.

      1. h
        Hungry Celeste

        Any of the ratios you describe will work just fine. I tend to use a little more oil than flour--I think that the flour is harder to burn when you use lots of oil. Don't worry about the excess oil--you can just skim it off the top once you're finished. The sausage (and chicken, if you're using skin-on) will produce fat as it cooks, too, so some skimming is inevitable. We just had our first real cool front of the fall...finally, it is gumbo weather.

        1. When I asked a question about gumbo earlier (see link), rudeboy recommended about 3/4 c. roux for 2 qts. stock. I veered from this and made a chocolate brown roux w/ about 4 TB butter (is oil traditional?) and 5 TB flour (so just a little more than 1/2 c. total). I used about 2.5 qts. fish stock. I like my gumbo on the soupy side anyway; however, it didn't thicken up as much as I wanted by the end, so I did something that will be considered heresy by some, but added a cornstarch slurry to thicken a bit more. Tasted great to me still.

          All of this is to say that I think rudeboy's rec is a good one, and you can always thin out w/ more stock or water if you need to. Agree w/ poster who said that you can get away w/ a little more flour to fat. The roux smelled *amazing* while being cooked, as did the final shrimp gumbo. I personally thought the butter worked well, but remember that this is coming from someone who used a cornstarch slurry too. ;-)

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          13 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover
            Hungry Celeste

            Butter burns rather easily, so you wouldn't want to use it for a dark brown roux. I use peanut oil (stands up to high heat)and bacon grease (lots of smoky flavor and a good alternative to sausage). Just say no to the cornstarch. If the gumbo is too thin, keep simmering until it is thick! In a total pinch, you can ladle out extra broth (try to avoid chunks of protein), make another roux to thicken the extra broth, and then add the thickened mixture back into the original gumbo. The cheaters' method: buy roux in a jar or powdered roux in a shaker can.

            1. re: Hungry Celeste

              Thanks for your comments, HC. Yes, I would have let it simmer longer to naturally thicken, but I had already tossed in the okra and it was getting soft, so pulled out my Asian cooking arsenal and improvised. Plus I was getting hungry. Will try to keep away the cornstarch next time though...

              I didn't have any problem w/ the butter burning or being fussy at all. I just continually stirred w/ a wooden spoon til it got pretty glossy and dark. The nutty smell of butter-based roux is pretty irresistable...

              1. re: Carb Lover
                Hungry Celeste

                The okra in gumbo is supposed to be soft, very soft.

            2. re: Carb Lover

              i have a stupid question - will 3/4 flour and 3/4 oil equal 3/4 cup roux?

              What was your experience with okra. I want to add it to a gumbo, but have heard stories about it being slimmy.

              1. re: timmy

                Not a stupid question; I honestly don't know for sure what that will amount to exactly. It will def. be more than 3/4 c. but perhaps a little less than 1.5 c. due to some evaporation? For about 3/4 c. roux, I would think 1/2 c. fat and 1/2 c. flour would work fine. The roux amount doesn't have to be exact.

                The cooked okra didn't really taste slimy, but the slime does get imparted to the gumbo which also aids in thickening. I personally like the slime of okra, but perhaps you could pre-treat by soaking sliced okra in water beforehand?

              2. re: Carb Lover

                Did you use fresh okra or frozen? I find fresh really helps to thicken gumbo where frozen does not. Also if you want another thickener use file powder. It is ground sasafrass leaves.The brand I use is Rex Gumbo File. Add it just before servng.

                1. re: Candy

                  I used fresh from the farmer's market. They did help to thicken, but not quite enough. Thanks for the file tip; I still need to get some...I know, I'm not a shining example of a Southern cook, but my heart (and stomach) are in the right place. Sadly, okra is looking a bit beat up lately, so I haven't been buying any.

                  1. re: Candy

                    I agree file would be better than a cornstarch slurry. Just don't add too much and don't add it while you're still cooking, otherwise the gumbo will become stringy and generally unservable.

                  2. re: Carb Lover

                    I wasn't clear in my original post.....I recommended 3/4 cups total roux in 2 qts stock to start with.

                    There's nothing wrong with "correcting" with a little stock or conrnstartch slurry to thicken or thin - as long as it isn't overcompensating/compromising the flavor. You have to have a minimal amt of roux to have that gumbo flavor. If you thin with stock, the stock needs to be properly spiced to match the gumbo.

                    Generally, I make a large gumbo with a 3/4 cup of both flour and oil and around 4 qts stock. If you use butter, clarify the butter beforehand so that the milk solids don't burn. I like to use a clarified butter for a more delicate seafood gumbo. Generally, oil for chicken gumbo.

                    Regardless, once you make the roux, you can use the paper napkin trick to defatten. After the roux is almost brown enough, turn off the fire....after about 5-10 minutes, the residual oil will rise to the top. You can use paper napkins to wick off the oil and wind up with more of a cake type roux. Use 20+ absorbent napkins to do this. Then, dig a well in the cake, start reheating, and place a minced onion in the well. You can use the onion moisture to hydrate the roux. I let the onion blacken in the middle a while berore stirring. Be careful not to burn the roux near the middle.

                    Basically, cook that onion down to where it is no longer apparent in the final mixture. You can brown the roux further in this step. Then, add more onion, celery, and bell pepper to further hydrate the roux. You wind up with a fairly defattened mixture to which then you can add stock. It's easier than skimming.

                    A seafood gumbo can be quite oil-free with this technique.

                    A duck/andouille gumbo will need further skimming, because both meats release so much fat. I don't like an oily gumbo, so cook a day ahead, refridgerate, and skim it off.

                    With okra, I have two ways to "deslime:" either stir fry or do the hot water/cold water bath. I'm not statisfied with either method.....the hot/cold thing only gets so much slime out, and the stir frying overcooks the okra somewhat. Generally, with fresh okra, I just keep alternating hot water and cold water until enough slime has released. I let hte okra thicken the gumbo a bit more. My fiancee doesn't like okra and the slime, so perhaps I would be less particular if it were simply me.

                    I love file. I add it to all my gumbo at the table. People have strict opinions on file, but to me, it just enhances the flavor. I agree with Carblover in that I like my gumbo a bit on the soupy side, and that's why I like to finish with file.

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Looking at the photo of your gumbo, you commited a cardinal sin in making an authentic gumbo. You may use a roux, or you can add okra, but never roux and okra together. Okra has its own thickening ability that is used when making an okra gumbo, but it's never used in conjunction with each a roux based gumbo.

                      1. re: thesteiner

                        Really? I have never heard of that before. Hungry Celeste and rudeboy seem pretty well-versed in this type of cuisine, and they mentioned that they use okra w/ a shrimp or chicken/sausage gumbo but never a seafood one. I assumed that they were referring to a roux base in any case...

                        1. re: Carb Lover

                          My mom spoke cajun French as her first language. She, and the rest of both sides of my Mom's family, were from Southwestern LA. Maybe the fancy New Oreleans chefs had these cardinal sins, but we were just eating.

                          Sometimes, she would make what she called "okra gumbo," where the gumbo was completely thickened with okra, no roux, and consisted almost entirely of minced okra. We'd come home from school and she'd say "I made gumbo today." We'd say "oh boy!" but then become disappointed in finding out that it was okra gumbo. She did this when the okra came in and there was too much of it.

                          But then she'd make "regular gumbo" and if we had okra, it went into the gumbo. Then, she would deslime the okra so it wouldn't affect the gumbo. I don't even specifically remember not having okra in seafood gumbo. Honestly, I don't see why that wouldn't be OK flavor-wise. I'll try it and see. It's sort of like the "no cheese on seafood" rule that people claim the italians consider a cardinal sin.

                        2. re: thesteiner

                          I had thought the cardinal sin (at least in Louisana) was to mix okra and file. You can add roux to either an okra gumbo or to a file gumbo (or to a gumbo that doesn't have either one).

                      2. The ratio of roux to liquid depends somewhat on how much you cook the roux. It's thickening power decreases the more it is cooked. One oz of flour + 1 oz of fat, cooked just enough to make a white roux, will thicken 1 cup of liquid. If you make the roux darker, you'll need to increase the amount of roux. According to Alton Brown, a "brick" roux will require 4 times as much roux as the white to achieve the same thickness (e.g., 4 oz flour + 4 oz fat = 1 cup liquid).

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