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Seafood gumbo - where did I go wrong?

I made Emeril's seafood gumbo recipe the other night. I tried very hard to get the right ingredients and follow the steps exactly, it took quite a bit of time. What I ended up with was a soup that tasted very good, spicy and seafood-y, but it looked AWFUL. A totally unappetizing shade of putrid brown. If I ate it with my eyes closed it was fine, but I couldn't get around the way it looked, so after a couple of bowls I dumped it before my hubby got back from his trip so he couldn't see it.

I didn't think I did the roux wrong - the recipe called for it to darken to the color of milk chocolate and I think I got it there but I was worried about it burning, so maybe I didn't. I did have to use canned crab instead of the 'gumbo crab' that was called for. I'm thinking that my downfall was that I couldn't figure out how to skim it - I was getting white foam constantly. Does that sound like it might have been the problem? What would you use to skim that stuff off without taking a lot of the liquid with it? Any other things I might have done wrong? Could I have fixed it? I really did like the flavor and I'd love to try again but it looked SO bad that I don't want to spend the time and end up with the same result (and that was a lot of nice seafood down the drain - sob).

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  1. Hmm...I am no gumbo expert but I am from Louisiana. Here's my take:

    1) Maybe roux went too dark? My grandmother never took it past a caramel color.
    2) Canned anything (except jarred -- not canned -- oysters) is a big no-no in Cajun cooking. Canned crab doesn't have the flavor consistency of "the real thing".
    3) I recommend doing a more authentic non-Emeril recipe for next time, maybe something from River Road Recipes.

    Just some thoughts...better luck next time!

    1. A properly made gumbo does not inspire one by its looks..it is a muddy/chocolate brown color.
      you could have been right on. Also, if you use a refrigerate/pasteurized canned crab, that is fine. It also typically tastes even better the next day. What was your other dissapoinment other than the look of it??

      1. hmm. I've been thinking about your problem, and instead I have a question. What, exactly did you expect the dish to look like, in that as you said, it tasted fine, but was a "putrid brown" color?

        I guess all gumbo I've had and made, mostly because of the roux, is brown in color. I also make my roux much darker than "milk chocolate" color, mine usually goes all the way to caramel, and indeed, the finished product is brownish, but I've never considered it bad, just is.

        It seems that you've wasted a good deal of nice seafood.

        1. Have you seen pictures of other gumbo to compare yours to? Mine is always a deep muddy brown but it looks like all the other gumbos I've seen. When I make gumbo, my roux is the color of dark chocolate. I take it way past the peanut butter color stage as it adds incredible flavor. Justin Wilson has the best recipes - just stay away from the "easy food" recipe book....it's terrible!

          As far as the foam goes, you may have had the heat too high, causing a bit of foaming. Keep the heat at the lowest your stove can go. You want a very gentle simmer. I leave mine on the stove for over 12 hours. MMMMMMM!!!!!

          1. Sounds like it was perfect. A dark brown roux creates a dark brown gumbo. Nothing you add will lighten it up unless GASP you would put cream in it. Then it would be something, certainly not gumbo. If it tasted good that's what's important, gumbo is all about taste.

            1. I'll agree! Sounds like Gumbo to me..

              1. Sometimes ground sassafras, aka File' [pronounced Fee-lay] might lend itself well to gumbo depending on your taste. I personally don't like it, but I know it will turn your muddy-brown colored gumbo to a "greenish" muddy-brown colored gumbo. Some prefer this color contrasting combination, but I find the taste of the gumbo altered with the addition and sometimes significantly. If I had to offer any advice, just stick with the gumbo as is --
                go lighter on the roux next time. --> Image: http://generalhorticulture.tamu.edu/p...

                1. That's what gumbo looks like. It's such a shame that you threw away a whole bunch of good gumbo!

                  1. Here's a recent photo of a chicken andouille gumbo. Did yours look like this? If you try again, maybe chicken and sausages will be a cheaper version to practice on. But "putrid brown" sounds about right!


                    1. I've been trying to think of a better way to describe 'putrid brown' and the best I can come up with is like canned cream of mushroom soup. I was really expecting something dark brown as everybody has mentioned. Really that was the major thing about it that bothered me, the flavor of the soup was very good, the seafood really came through in both texture and doneness, and it was spicy-hot to my liking. I did think it was a bit thick, but I didn't mind that at all.

                      Pei - your picture is exactly what I was hoping to end up with, that looks FABULOUS!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ns538bmk

                        The more you cook the roux the less thickening ability it maintains. Perhaps you just didn't cook your roux long enough. That might have left the soup too light a shade brown and also too thick.

                        1. re: ns538bmk

                          Hmm, that's lighter than it should be. I'd guess you didn't cook your roux long enough.

                          1. re: ns538bmk

                            Cook your roux longer next time. My fiance is super patient and cooks it over low heat for at least half an hour, stirring constantly. Alton Brown says you can throw it in the oven in a covered pot if you're lazy and don't want to stir. I'm sure the exact instructions are on foodtv.com.

                            By the time it's ready, the roux should be chocolate brown and you should be able to smell it outside your kitchen.

                          2. NEVER throw away food that tastes good! If you can't stand the color, wrap it in a tortilla and call it a Louisiana Wrap!

                            1. What color did you expect it to be? It's gumbo, it's supposed to be a putrid brown color. Like the Mississippi River in August at Algiers point, or Bayou Lafourche on a hot summer afternoon. Your substitution of canned crab for gumbo crabs is acceptable, though gumbo crabs are unpicked, intact crab bodies that will lend a decidedly more seafood-y flavor than picked crabmeat.

                              Regarding the foam: you just didn't cook it long enough. Gumbo is about low-n-slow cooking, not speeding things along. Turn down the heat, let it simmer, and all of that foam will subside and cook back into the broth. No need to skim, unless your using fatty ingredients (pork sausages, for example) that release a ton of grease. Then you can skim the grease off the top of the pot before serving.

                              I generally make seafood gumbo roux a lighter brown than poultry gumbos (chicken, duck, guinea hen), but you can always doctor the color a bit with Kitchen Bouquet if you like a dark, dark color. Brewed black coffee will also color it a bit.