Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Catfish and Frog Leg Cajun File' Black Gumbo

Mardi Gras!
     A bowl of gumbo is a great Louisiana entree to eat on Fat Tuesday.  There are many variations of gumbo.  Cajun gumbo rarely has tomato in it.  Creole gumbo does require tomato.  The classic Cajun rule of thumb for making a roux is to make a light colored roux for dark meat and to make a dark colored roux for light colored meat.  I have posted a few Cajun recipes that required a red or brown roux.  A black roux takes much more time to make.  Black roux is only reserved for a few different gumbos that are made with fish or seafood.  The flavor of a black roux gumbo is very rich.
     Once you start making a dark roux, you can not stop stirring till the roux is completely finished cooking, or it will scorch and burn.  A scorched roux will have an unpleasant flavor.  For a black roux, the aroma will change as the roux cooks.  When the roux is blonde colored, it smells like hazelnuts.  When brown, it smells like dark toasted bread.  When black, it smells like burnt popcorn and dark toasted bread.
     Any roux that is darker than a very dark chocolate brown color is considered to be a black roux.  Some recipes do require a black roux to be cooked jet black.  The darker the roux is cooked, the darker the gumbo will be.  A very dark roux will be far less starchy and it will have less thickening ability.  A sauce or gumbo that is made with black roux, will have a thinner consistency because there is less starch to bind with the broth.
     When making any roux, wear a long sleeve chef jacket and gloves.  The roux will become so hot, that a small splatter can cause a third degree burn.  Use caution when making a roux!  Have all the vegetables chopped and ready before starting the roux.  The vegetables will instantly stop the roux from cooking any further, once they are added.
      The trinity is a Louisiana cooking term for the proportion of the basic vegetables.  The trinity is always, 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part green bell pepper.
     This recipe takes a while to make.  Many chefs say 3 hours is the cooking time for gumbo.  A good gumbo takes a minimum of 2 hours to make.
     Catfish and Frog Leg Cajun File' Black Gumbo Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 1 portion!
     Sometime while the gumbo is simmering, cook 1 portion of plain brown rice.  Keep the rice warm.  (White long grain rice is good too, but brown rice seems to accent the flavor of a black gumbo!)
     Place 2/3 cup of small diced onion in a bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of small diced green bell pepper.
     Add 1/3 cup of small diced celery.
     Set the trinity vegetable mixture aside.
     Heat 2 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter in a sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly stir the roux as it cooks.  Do not stop stirring or the roux will burn!
     As the roux becomes darker, it will become hotter and thinner.
     Stir and cook the roux, till is goes beyond a dark chocolate brown color and starts to become a black color.
     Add the reserved trinity vegetable mixture.
     Allow the steam to escape, before stirring.
     Stir the roux and vegetables.  The roux will stop cooking and the vegetables will instantly be cooked.
     Add 2 minced cloves of garlic.
     Add 2 finely chopped green onions.
     Stir the vegetables and roux.
     Add 3 cups of shrimp stock.
     Stir the gumbo as it comes to a boil.
     When the broth heats and thickens, it should be a very thin sauce consistency.
     Lower the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced ham.
     Simmer the gumbo base for 45 minutes.
     Stir occasionally.
     Add 1/2 cup of thick sliced okra.
     Add 2 to 3 generous pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 3 pinches of paprika.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
     Simmer the gumbo for another thirty minutes.
     Stir the gumbo occasionally.
     Add shrimp broth, if the gumbo becomes too thick.  The gumbo should be a medium thin sauce consistency later, before adding the frog legs and catfish.  The frog legs and catfish are added late in the recipe, so they do not crumble into the gumbo.
     After 30 minutes of simmering, add 2 frog legs.
     Note:  Leave the bones in the frog legs for a small batch of this gumbo.  For a large batch of gumbo, poach the frog legs in the broth, then remove them from the broth after they are fully cooked.  Let them cool.  Remove the meat from the bones and return the frog leg meat to the gumbo.  This way, no bones will break loose into the gumbo.
     Add 5 ounces of bite size catfish filet pieces.
     Do not stir the gumbo after the fish is added or the fish will break up into tiny pieces.  Just gently shake the sauce pot occasionally, till the catfish and frog legs become fully cooked.
     Add 2 teaspoons of file' powder.
     Gently shake the pot, so the file' powder blends into the gumbo.
     The gumbo is ready when the catfish and frog legs become fully cooked.

     Remove the bay leaf.
     Use a ring mold to place a tall mound of rice in a shallow soup bowl.
     Be careful not to break the frog legs and catfish apart, when plating the gumbo.
     Spoon the gumbo around the rice in the bowl.
     Set the frog legs against the rice in the bowl.
     Sprinkle a little bit of thin sliced green onion on the rice.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
     Delicious?  You bet your prize fresh caught catfish that this gumbo is delicious!  The flavor of this gumbo is very complex and very satisfying.  Cajun gumbo should be comfortably spicy hot.
     The dark black roux flavor is noticeable on the first sip.  After the first sip, the taste bud reaction will leave a person in doubt.  The second sip, is when the black roux starts to taste good with the ingredients.  After the third sip, it will become very difficult to pause for a break while eating!  The flavor is that good!
     Break out the Mardi Gras beads and enjoy a bowl full of this classic black gumbo!  Yum!  ...  Shawna            


  1. Phew! I am so glad you mentioned the popcorn smell! I tried my hand at a very dark roux today and was wondering if I'd taken it too far. Guess not! Looking forward to making some gumbo!

    1. Ha! Roux is burnt when brown specs appear when most of the roux still has a light color.

      As long as roux is constantly stirred over constant heat, it will cook evenly and it will become as dark as you want. Anything beyond brown is an acquired taste or it is meant for a specific recipe.

      The Cajun rule of thumb is, dark meat=light color roux ... light color meat=dark roux.

      Be sure to have the trinity vegetables, garlic and green onions ready to add to the roux, when it reaches the right color. Adding the veggies stops the roux from cooking any further.

    2. Thanks and have fun cookin'!