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Cajun Gumbo

flour and oil for the roux
bell pepper
cayenne pepper
and garlic

(chicken, andouille or other sausage, shrimp, crawfish, etc.
spices (Tony Chachere's Cajun spice or combination of black pepper, white
pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, and maybe some herbs, file')

To make the roux, use slightly more flour than oil. I usually use
about half a cup of light (safflower or canola) oil to about 2/3
c. for 1-2 lbs of meat. In a heavy (preferably cast iron), large
(>4 qt) pan, heat the oil till it's nice and thin, then add the
flour. Stirring frequently, heat this mixture over low heat until
it's as cooked as you think it can get, then 10 minutes more. How
long this takes depends on how long you're willing to spend actually
just standing there stirring the roux, which determines how hot
you can cook it. If you're willing to stir it constantly, the roux
can be made in 45 minutes-1:15, and can be cooked somewhere between
low and medium. If you want to stir every couple of minutes, the
roux takes a couple of hours and must be cooked over very low heat.
This is the most important step, as it makes the flavor and
consistency of the dish. If the roux is underdone, the gumbo will
have a kind of floury taste and texture, whereas if you burn the
oil, it will taste like burnt oil. Best thing to do is have a real
Cajun show you how to do it properly (I was lucky enough to have
this opportunity).

Once the roux is done, add the meat, coat with the roux and brown
the outside a little, add the veggies and some spices, toss a little
more, then add hot water, making sure the mixture isn't so hot that
it will spatter. The water should cover the ingredients.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to emulsify the roux and water,
then simmer until all the meat is done, tasting and adding spice
till it's right.

Since shrimp and crawfish only take a few minutes to cook, they
should only be added 5-10 minutes before serving.

Right before serving, add a few tbsp of gumbo file', less if you're
using okra, increase the heat a little, and stir until the file'
is dissolved and the gumbo is thickened.

This is frequently served as a soup, but I much prefer it as a
meal, with rice, bread, and lots of tabasco.


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