Creole (Cajon) Cooking - GUMBO FILE (H78)
Info: Gumbo File is a seasoning made from the ground,
dried leaves of the Sassafras Tree. This seasoning is an
integral part of Creole cooking used to flavor and
thicken gumbos and other Creole dishes. Gumbo File has a
woodsy flavor reminiscent of root beer. The name Gumbo is
derived from the African word meaning Okra. File Powder
is said to have first been used by the Choctaw Indians
from the Louisiana Bayou country. Gumbo is the Creole
mainstay of New Orleans cuisine. Gumbo is a thick, stew
like dish that can have any of many ingredients such as
okra, tomatoes, and onions. This mixture will also
contain different types of meats or shellfish such as
chicken, sausage, ham, shrimp, crab or oysters. The one
ingredient that all gumbos begins with is the
unmistakable dark roux. Okra or Gumbo File are used to
thicken the dark roux. Gumbo is a thick, stew like dish
that can have any of many ingredients such as okra,
tomatoes, and onions.
Suggested Use: Gumbo file is used to flavor and thicken gumbos and other creole dishes.
FILÉ (GUMBO FILÉ) (See also: Sassafras; Gumbo)
Filé, or as it is also known because of its association with gumbo, gumbo filé, is the powdered dried leaves of the sassafras tree. The Choctaw Indians (Mississippi and Alabama) first used this seasoning. It has a flavor resembling that of root beer. It is an essential flavoring and thickening ingredient of gumbo and other Créole dishes. Filé is generally added after cooking, when the dish has been removed from the heat, but still hot, because it becomes stringy with cooking.
Delicious Cajun Gumbo Made Easy
Gumbo is one of the true delicacies of cajun cooking. If you've ever been to New Orleans, you know what we're talking about. While the word "gumbo" seems straightforward, the truth is that gumbo's can taste quite different. In the tradition of fabled "stone soup", gumbo was originally cooked at home as an inexpensive, hearty meal, made with whatever ingredients were most handy. Today, the two most popular varieties of gumbo recipes can be broadly classified into "seafood gumbo" and "chicken and sausage gumbo". But again, these are just broad classifications.
Seafood gumbo can be a thick, roux-based consistency, or thin & brothy. As far as the type of seafood to include, you're free to use your preference of one, or any combination of shrimp, crawfish, crab and/or oysters. Some cooks prefer to add some okra to the mix, some don't. Some like to add file', some don't. Of course, like all cajun food, the question of hot versus mild is always an issue.
Chicken and sausage gumbo is actually a bit more common than seafood gumbo, not just because it tastes great, but because fresh chicken and sausage are generally more available throughout the country (and they're usually less expensive than fresh, quality seafood). But just like seafood gumbo, the variations are seemingly limitless. For starters, every chef seems to have a favorite type of sausage. In south Louisiana, andouille sausage is the hands-down favorite category of sausage. Of course, within the "andouille" category, every cook has his/her favorite brand of andouille. As far as the "chicken" is concerned, some folks like white meat and others like dark. In day's past, "chicken" meant whole pieces of chicken, including the bones. Of course, the problem with whole pieces of chicken is that they can be messy to eat, and the actual gumbo can sometimes have a greasy flavor. Most "modern" gumbos now use deboned chicken, with chicken broth used in making the base flavor. But wait, while we're talking "chicken", some chefs now use quail, duck, guinea hen, or pretty much any other game bird they can find. Like seafood gumbo, the roux-based thickness versus a more watery broth is an ever-present issue among different cooks, not to mention the fighting topic of "to okra" or "not to okra".
Okay, so somewhere above we mentioned that gumbo was easy to prepare. Then we proceeded to confuse the issue by discussing the endless types of gumbo. Well the point is, the "best" gumbo is the one that YOU like. Take any gumbo recipe, add a little more of your favorite flavors, subtract a little of the things you don't like, and you're bound to end up with a great-tasting gumbo. Like it hot? Add a little hot sauce. Don't care for hot sauce, but still want a little kick? Use some cajun seasoning. Depending on how much time and inclination you have, you can open a can of already-prepared gumbo, start with a seasoned mix, or start from scratch. It's up to you, but any way you go about it, chances are you're going to love it.
Take a look at the free gumbo recipes listed in the Cajun Recipes section of our website or try out one of the easy-to-prepare mixes shown above, and you'll be ready to serve delicious, mouth-watering gumbo in just a few minutes.