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So, last time I made gumbo, I got the veggies chopped (onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic) and then realized I had prepped twice as much as I needed.

I froze the extra ingredients, labeled for future use for gumbo.

I'm making it again now, and it's pretty flavorless. (See below for exactly what I've done.) Since the last time I made it was over a month ago, I don't recall exactly whether it was this bland last time.

What might cause flavorless gumbo? Is it the frozen veggies?
Is this dish supposed to be somewhat bland? I've actually only had it once or twice at a restaurant. How could/should I add more flavor to the current batch?

Process:

  1. Heat 1.5 TB oil, add 1.5 TB flour to make a dark brown roux.
  2. If I were using fresh veggies, I'd add them next. Instead, I held off.
  3. Add 1/2 cup tomato sauce, stir until it gets crumbly & dry.
  4. I then added the defrosted, drained veggies.
  5. Fry 1/2 pound okra in a separate skillet until it's less sticky & less stringy, then add to the pot.
  6. Add 1 cup fresh, chopped tomatoes.
  7. Slowly add 1 1/2 cups water.
  8. Add 1/2 tsp sugar, some salt, pepper, and I actually also added a dash of hot pepper sauce since it was so blah-tasting.
  9. Simmer for an hour.
    .... this is where I am now, and it's just.. blah, still.
  10. The next step will be to add 1/2 pound shrimp, a bay leaf, some fresh parsley, and cook for another 30 minutes.
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    Don't forget to finish with some filé. I like a little for the flavor even when it's not needed for thickening because of the okra. – Paused until further notice. Sep 12 '10 at 22:16
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I think the problem is that in the original recipe you would have browned the veggies in the roux, which develops flavor. Since you didn't do that, you might want to saute some onions and garlic until well browned and add that in. Other possibilities:

(1) Sauce may just need to reduce and become more concentrated (2) May need more salt (3) May need a little more acid (a bit of vinegar or lemon juice)

  • 3
    1 tsp lemon juice, a big pinch kosher salt, and a teaspoon of browned garlic fixed it. You're the hero of our dinner tonight! – JustRightMenus Sep 11 '10 at 22:40
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    Incidentally, we're having your blue cheese puffs (herbivoracious.com/2008/06/gougeres---chee.html) later on tonight with some fabulous Port. :) I love your site! – JustRightMenus Sep 11 '10 at 22:42
  • @JustRightMenus - thanks! I'm glad to hear you like it. – Michael Natkin Sep 12 '10 at 3:18
  • @JustRightMenus: thanks for saying what you used to help it out. Another essential thing I like to add is Accent/msg. – zanlok Jan 21 '11 at 1:46
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Stir-fry the vegetables instead of the okra (which doesn't need it), till they're somewhat caramelized. Make more roux, develop more nerve in making it darker (my favorite recipe uses 1/2 cup of butter and flour each). Use stock, not water. Hold off on the tomato sauce, and use a lot more spices. Plus just get some andouille :-).

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The gumbo recipe you show looks more like an Italian tomato dish. Most authentic gumbo recipes don't use tomatoes and none that are decent will use tomato sauce. Some Cajun gumbo recipes use chopped tomatoes but in limited quantities.

Real gumbo will be best with a little more roux than you list. Also need to use some smoked meat and stock instead of water. For foolproof and really fantastic gumbo recipes visit this site. http://www.gumbocooking.com. You also get cooking instructions on everything about gumbo including how to make a roux.

  • @gene - welcome. Self-promotion such as the link you provided is likely to be flagged as spam (please see our FAQ: cooking.stackexchange.com/faq) and therefore the meat of your answer is likely not to be heard. Please edit your answer to remove your self-promotion. – justkt Oct 25 '10 at 12:37
  • I somewhat agree about the tomatoes. My favorite cajun-style gumbos (1. shrimp with sausage and 2. chicken) have a limited quantity, though I do like them a lot otherwise. – zanlok Jan 21 '11 at 1:43
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What Gene said: use a strong stock and (IMO) about twice the roux.

Also, I don't fry my okra. I will add tomato if I don't have any smoked sausage -- but then I never consider it "proper" gumbo if I do. And I add plenty of herbs and spices.

Gumbo is most definitely NOT a bland dish -- quite the opposite.

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