Gumbo is an authentic dish from South Louisiana that combines American Indian, African, and European cuisine characteristics. It is the ultimate thick soupy dish to warm you up and create a fresh feel. How thick should gumbo be? It is the most-asked question from top-listed chefs.
Gumbo is, basically, a Cajun-inspired thick soupy dish based on the dark Roux with a combination of chicken or shellfish. The taste depends much on the thickness of the meal. How do you decide the limit of the thickness of gumbo? It entirely depends on your taste preference. It does not change with country or region.
You should follow some rules to thicken gumbo. You can avoid some mistakes and keep the perfection intact in gumbo thickness. Let’s learn the thickening facts in detail.
How Thick Should Gumbo Be
The word ‘Gumbo’ comes from the West African word- ‘Okra,’ meaning that Okra, a natural thickener, thickened this gumbo. The gumbo recipe follows a mixture of different country’s ingredients. The spice choice comes from Cajun, and the technique follows frying flour and fat like French dishes. It uses Roux as the base part of this soupy dish. With the mixture, people use shellfish or chicken or sausage or ham, etc., depending on their taste preference.
Many people think that the thickness preference changes with the region. They believe that different people from different areas want gumbo thickness differently. But it is not correct. The thickness preference entirely depends on a person’s interest. Generally, gumbo is a thick soupy dish, and a few people want them thin.
Keeping the essential part- Roux and spices, people add many different ingredients to match their taste preference. Some people like to add chicken or sausage; some people add authentic shellfish. Some people add various herbs to increase their flavor. So, it is all up to your choice. Some people like to add tomatoes or tomato sauces. Tomatoes are also an authentic ingredient for gumbo. Another efficient item to increase the original flavor of gumbo is the chicken stock.
Add Thickeners To Dense Gumbo
As gumbo is a denser recipe than a regular soup, its thickness matters the most. There are some mistakes to destroy its preferable thickness, and you can rectify your mistakes or avoid making those mistakes. You have to know the process of adding the thickeners.
In some areas, they use Okra or file to thicken the gumbo authentically. Here, the file is the powder that dries sassafras leaves. Okra is a traditional thickener for gumbo, and so it does not only thicken it but also adds some extra flavor and mucilaginous substance.
Other than these traditional thickeners, you can use the typical ingredients of your kitchen as the thickener. You can use flour, corn starch, or specially made Roux.
How to Mix Flour
To thicken gumbo, the regular baking flour works well. To mix it with the gumbo, you have to make a mixture of flour and water. In one cup of water, mix two tablespoons of flour. Then mix it with thorough stirring to prevent lump formation. Now add this mixture into the gumbo that is almost finished cooking. After adding flour, cook it on medium heat by occasional stirring. You have to cook it until it becomes thick enough.
Generally, it takes only one minute to thicken gumbo when you add it to cooked gumbo. So, you cannot wait up; instead, check it after stirring it for only one minute. If you see that it is still not thick enough, you can add more flour. Be careful about the taste, as excess flour addition can change the natural gumbo flavor.
How to Mix Corn Starch
Corn starch works almost similarly. It also similarly thickens gumbo.
In this case, you have to make a mixture of water and cornstarch like flour. But you will need less cornstarch than flour to have the same thickness. Add the corn starch mixture to gumbo and stir it continuously until it thickens the dish. It generally takes only two minutes to thicken gumbo if it is added after completing gumbo cooking.
While adding corn starch, make sure that there is no bubble or lump formation. If needed, you can add more corn starch mixture. But do not cook for long after it reaches the desired thickness, and keep in mind that it gets a little thicker when it cools down.
Roux can be used as a thickener. Yes, you have Roux as the base. You can add more Roux to thicken the gumbo. Actually, Roux is a mixture of flour and fat, and so it can thicken gumbo.
Other than ROUX, you can add eggs or a puree of egg and other liquid thickeners. If you can choose the thickener depending on the recipe, it will make the right taste for you. Excess thickeners should not destroy the real taste of it.
Avoid Mistakes To Make Proper Gumbo Thickness
There are some mistakes in gumbo cooking recipes that many people make but do not know how their gumbo is not correctly thick. You should learn those mistakes so that you can avoid them and create the right gumbo consistency.
Ensure of Adding Enough Flour
To make a perfect thickness of gumbo, the quantity of flour is an important fact. If you do not add enough flour, it will be thin. Then it seems like soup, not a stew. Make sure that you have added enough flour to the fat for the Roux cooking. It should be like a paste initially. Then the thickness will be perfect after completing gumbo cooking.
Add Proteins in Correct Order
As there are many proteins in the gumbo recipe, you have to be careful about adding them correctly. As the proteins, you may like to add chicken, shellfish, andouille, etc. Fish and Meats are also responsible for providing juicy thickness to gumbo. If you do not add them in proper order, you may mess it up.
Chicken needs more time to be adequately cooked than andouille and shellfish. This is why you have to add chicken before shellfish and andouille. Overcooking can make meats or fish rubbery, and it may not add enough juice to gumbo.
Use Stock Instead of Water
To make the juice of gumbo, you have to use stock instead of water. Water cannot provide the necessary flavor and thickness like stock.
Besides, you have to use the correct stock type depending on the recipe. When you use chicken in gumbo, you should use chicken stock. If you use pork, you have to extract stock from ham hocks or hog bones and then use it. For the seafood gumbo, shellfish stock is a perfect choice.
Add Okra at the Correct Order and Right Time
Okra is a traditional ingredient of gumbo, and it provides an authentic flavor to it. It also acts as an efficient thickener. To get the best benefit from Okra, you have to add it at the right time. Okra is such an ingredient that it can lose the ability to thicken gumbo for overcooking. The structure of Okra can be destroyed for overcooking too.
The perfect timing to add Okra is approximately 30 minutes before finishing the gumbo cooking. Let Okra steep softly and develop slime juice to the finished product correctly.
Use Enough time to Cook Gumbo
Cooking gumbo takes approximately 3 to four hours. The longer you cook the gumbo, the more flavor ingredients add to the dish. If you want a perfect texture, give it enough time and constantly check if the desired thickness has arrived. Enough cooking time offers gumbo to mix all the ingredients properly. So, do not rush.
Use Oil Instead of Butter
When you make the Roux, use oil in the place of butter. It is because butter can get burnt after a specific temperature as it separates fat and solid parts of the butter. It happens before the Roux reaches the correct texture and color. This will bring a burnt aroma to gumbo. Avoid this issue using vegetable oil or lard instead of butter.
Stay Attentive During Cooking Time
Gumbo is a recipe for patience. Every step of the gumbo recipe needs your attention. You cannot walk away, keeping the gumbo to be cooked alone. When stirring the flour mixture for Roux, adding ingredients one by one, and mixing them properly, you have to be there to be sure of the correct taste and consistency of gumbo.
Gumbo is an enjoyable and yummy meal to have with steamed rice or pilaf. A common question is how thick should gumbo be.
Actually, there is no strict rule for the thickness limit of gumbo. It is all about the preference of the person who is going to have it. Mainly, the thickness of the gumbo comes from the Roux and Okra. If you can avoid common mistakes and allow all the ingredients to cook correctly, you can make a perfectly thick gumbo. If you have a little thinner gumbo, you can increase its thickness by adding some effective thickeners. So, know the details and create an amazingly tasteful gumbo.