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I made a gumbo on Sunday. First I made the roux, using equal parts flour and oil, high heat, constant stirring. I ended up with a beautiful dark brown roux. At no point did it stick to the pan, at no point did I see black flakes rise to the top. I took it off the heat and added the trinity, returned to a lower heat for awhile, added garlic spices and stock, in this case it was a homemade beef stock that was still frozen when I added it. I brought it to a simmer and tasted. It was burned! It had a bitter after taste and it tasted distinctly burned. My wife, whose default reaction to such situations is, “It’s fine dear”, agreed. “Yep, it’s burned”.

Well, at this point I was so disgusted I wasn’t about to start over, I just dumped the rest of the ingredients into the pot, set it to a simmer and went off to pout for a couple of hours. Okay, but here’s the kicker, At dinner time I told my wife, “Okay, time to eat burnt gumbo”, we dished it up, and it was great! No burned taste. No bitter after taste. It was quite possibly the best gumbo I’ve ever made. Can anybody explain this to me?

  • Was the stock burned when you made it? :) – ElendilTheTall Jul 24 '14 at 14:41
  • The stock wasn't burned, but the bones and veggies were well caramelized. – George Tirebiter Jul 24 '14 at 15:00
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I was born and raised in the heart of Cajun country. My entire family loves gumbo, especially my moms. This is what I learned: get the roux as dark as possible without burning it (that makes the best gumbo). I think that's what happened to yours; you probably got it just right. Then you add the other ingredients so that it mellows down the bitter taste. I, unlike my mom, have actually slightly burned my roux many times. When I do this I add half a potato for about 10-15 min and it helps remove the burned flavor (don't forget to take out the potato). Maybe there is as yet no rhyme or reason to why the slightly burned/bitter turns into deliciousness after its cooked with other ingredients for a while, but I thank heaven for such a wonderful mystery ;)

8

I'm guessing that you were tasting a deep, concentrated char the first time, just shy of burnt (most likely in the roux itself). The simmering afterwards mellowed it, giving you the perfect (you may never duplicate it) level of caramelization in the final gumbo.

2

My guess is you burned the roux without realizing it. Rouxs should not be cooked on high heat; medium is best. You don't want to rush it.

Here is a link about roux. You can also google the Alton Brown episode where he talks about roux. He has a method for cooking it in the oven to whatever shade you desire, with little to no chance of burning.

Like candies, roux takes a lot of attention and shouldn't be rushed. Take your time, cook it at a lower heat, and youi will like the results.

FWIW, the link says the darkest roux should take 45 minutes, assuming medium heat. So plan ahead, and maybe just make a big batch and freeze it for future use.

  • 1
    You may have missed the second paragraph. The gumbo was terrific after it simmered a couple of hours. Didn't taste burned in the slightest. And Paul Prudhomme does recommend the high heat method. – George Tirebiter Jul 24 '14 at 21:04
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    I did catch that. Dunno why it worked out that way, but nice when it does. As for heat, many places I have read promote the low/medium heat method. Some go for high heat to reduce cooking time, but that requires constant attention. Regardless of what Prudhome recommends, I will stick to more casual-friendly methods for now. Anyways, darker rouxs are supposed to have a coffee/chocolate smell, which itself may be described as 'burnt'. I have never gone much past blonde, so perhaps that is what it tastes like. Or you burned a little bit while cooking the trinity, and it mellowed later. – JSM Jul 25 '14 at 19:29
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Being raised in a cajun kitchen, roux was the first thing we learned to make from my mommom.I would say it could not have been burned and taste good.Roux that is really burned is awful,bitter to taste.We always cook roux on low heat.It takes longer but is worth it.

1

How long did the garlic cook before adding the liquid? Cooking garlic more than a few seconds can result in a bitter taste. About 30 seconds is the max I use.

1

For anyone who reads this, it was my first time making a roux today and it tasted great. I set it aside as I began working on the rest of the base for my seafood gumbo, and as I combined the roux I noticed it had thickened on the bottom but the roux itself did not taste torched. As the flavors began to develop, the burned taste was noticable, but as it simmered for a couple of hours, the torched taste of roux was masked by the other flavors. The final product was a 9/10, although I could still taste a hint of the char, no one else could. From my experience today, if you have a middle to final product that tastes burned, it most likely came from the roux, even if it did not taste burned to begin with.

1

when you added the trinity to the roux, you probably just overcooked the garlic, or could have gotten some of the garlic's germ in the mix (both leave bitter aftertastes). Simmering anything naturally mellows sharp flavors, as it gives the flavors time to marry and intermingle - that's the reason a lot of tomato based sauces are simmered slowly. trust me, I've been cooking for 44 years now. You can't burn roux and get anything near tasting good - burnt is burnt. Period. If it tasted good, then you probably were just tasting the concentrated caramel flavors. Also, the acid in the tomatoes might have helped to neutralize the aftertaste somewhat. In the future, just add a fresh raw potato for 10-15 minutes, and a pinch of sweetener (molasses, brown or turbinado sugar work well). Or, if you're from Bayou country, especially the lowlands of Arcadia, be a real Cajun and just throw that sh!t out and start again. LOL.

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