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Mar 6, 2012 03:07 PM

What happened to my gumbo?

I made chicken & andouille gumbo last night. I made a roux to a deep mahogany, added my trinity, cooked down a little, added seasonings then hot chicken broth, brought to a boil (rolling, didn't mean to, but walked away while on the phone), turned down and simmered. Added chicken (that'd been cooked separately for the aforementioned broth) and browned andouille. Oh, then frozen okra a bit before serving, but the broth was already weird before that addition.

So here're the further clues: I skimmed off about 1/2cup of oil (3/4c to 1 cup flour that'd been used in the roux). The broth had an almost metallic bitter taste.

My step-dad had the same problem not long ago and we suspect that the roux "broke" during that "oh shit, it's about to boil over!" rolling boil, as his did the same.

Are we on the right track, or no? Can a roux even "break" the way any other flour-based sauce can? It seems likely, but almost unlikely at the same time.

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  1. Hi. I think you may have a point there - don't BOIL the stuff. You shouldn't have had 1/2 cup of oil floating anywhere. If you added your chicken broth in small amounts and whisked each addition til incorporated, then added your other stuff, mixing well, and simmered, it shouldn't have broken. You might have a light coating of oil on the top after adding the andouille and cooking awhile, but I don't see 1/2 cup. Good Luck.

    11 Replies
    1. re: caiatransplant

      Thanks, that's exactly what I did, and I should've mentioned that this isn't my first time making gumbo, only my first time failing at making gumbo.

      I did some better googling this afternoon, and it seems I'd scorched my roux somewhere along the way, which is odd, because there were no indicators of that having happened, but over and again, "bitter = scorched or burned." I also read a great quote: "I've often said you can tell the mood that a cook was in when he/she made their gumbo from the roux they made." There may be a not insignificant amount of truth to this statement.

      1. re: shanagain

        It sounds like you burned the roux even before the rolling boil. I used to make roux for restaurant etouffe and it was a pain in the ass. The color comes from the "controlled" burn of the flour. If you neglect it for too long (stop stirring), it will burn. If this happens near the end, when the color is dark, it might go unnoticed unless tasted. (This did happen occasionally and I'd have to chuck the batch and start over, usually with plenty of curse words)
        Burning isn't likely after you add stock as the temp won't go much over 212F.

        "I've often said you can tell the mood that a cook was in when he/she made their gumbo from the roux they made"
        In my case, it wasn't so much mood, but more a dumbass lack of attention...

        1. re: porker

          I'm willing to say that it's a combination of burnt and broken roux. The roux should never reach a boil, so the "rolling boil" is a pretty good clue that it broke. I wasn't thinking "burnt" until I got to the description of the taste as metallic. That suggests burnt, although the mahogany color by itself doesn't. Our house gumbo is a macho game of chicken with the roux. Just this side of burnt is considered successful (yes, I know that's too dark, but that's how it goes). If you saw any flecks of black at all in the roux, then it burned. There's no recovery at that point.

          It sounds like the base recipe is fine. Just keep stirring the roux and don't walk away unless the house is on fire or someone is bleeding to death. It will work next time.

          1. re: porker

            You raise an excellent point about the ability of a roux to "cross over" unnoticed. I take it to just before the color I want and then throw my vegetables and/or stock in to stop the cooking. It will go a little farther--or I believe it does. I call it "slingshotting." It is imperative in turtle soup due to that higher ratio of flour.

            The okra may also have been a problem. I was taught to thaw okra and throw it in a skillet with a little lemon and oil and sautee it. This prevents to gumbo from being ropy-ey (as happens when you boil it with file which point you are sunk so always add file at the table or to the pot ONLY if you know you are not gonna be cooking it anymore).

            1. re: hazelhurst

              I met Paul Prudhomme at a trade show in Montreal maybe 9-10 years ago. We chitchatted a bit and I expressed my frustration at the attention required for a dark, nutty roux. I appreciate that a roux can be any fat and flour, but I always used butter. Paul said he'd let me in on a little secret; "start with an oil instead of butter, get it super hot, smoking, *then* add the flour". It'll save lots of time bringing up the temp to brown the flour.
              Old habits die hard and I never actually tried his method, but I will someday...

              1. re: porker

                My roux for gumbo is a half cup of bacon drippings and cup of butter.


                1. re: Davwud

                  I never really wanted to go the oil method for losing the butter flavor. Bacon drippings sound amazing.

                  1. re: porker

                    Don't use too much. I wouldn't go over 50/50.


                2. re: porker

                  I've seen him do that "get it hot" routine but it always ran against the grain for me plus I remember reading Escoffier who said that too high a heat destroyed the interior structure of the "grain" (or whatever it is) of flour, reducing the thickening ability. This might be on a par with "searing in the juices" but it was Escoffier's claim so I'll stick with it. Plus, I saw someone try the high-heat-add-flour trick at an Xmas party and the whole thing had to be tossed out. Burnt like San Francisco after The Quake.

                  1. re: porker

                    I always make roux this way--learned it from Prudhomme's first cookbook. It's done very quickly, but you must stir constantly. I like dark roux for gumbo, so I always use oil. And, yes, the roux continues to cook a bit after the veggies are added so it's important to add them before you get to the desired darkness.

                    To the OP: I add the roux mixture to boiling stock and then boil it (per Prudhomme's instructions) for 15 minutes and then simmer it another 10 or so. It never breaks.

                  2. re: hazelhurst

                    I agree with you hazel. I think the roux darkens slightly after the vegetation is added. I usually park a jar of PB on the counter next to the pot. Once the colours match, in go the veg.


            2. thanks to all I made my first gumbo and let it sit in a crock pot on low overnight....I am stupid and no directions ever said do this .... I am fired as a gumbo maker ....only great thing is I only cooked 1/2 Praise God. I googled to find out what the tin taste was!!! ok