Alton Brown’s shrimp gumbo recipe: Brown roux in oven
Here’s the gumbo recipe from Alton Brown: Shrimp Gumbo.
This is yet another example of why I think Good Eats is one of the best shows in the history of television: Not only does Alton Brown give us an entertaining half hour of viewing, but we also get some real life, hands-on kitchen activity, a classic recipe that we can use and improvise upon for years to come, and knowledge that can be applied to a host of other cooking situations. Along the way, he ingeniously eliminates an obstacle that has been tripping up Cajun and Creole and European cooks for centuries.
In practice, the main stumbling block in any recipe for gumbo is the roux — a seemingly simple mixture of just vegetable oil and all-purpose flour in equal parts (measured by weight, not volume, as Mr. Brown helpfully notes). Historically, the oil and flour have been continuously whisked in a pan over low heat for an extended time, gradually passing through various stages of copper color and brownness to the ultimate perfect shade. The problem is that one second beyond that beautiful chocolate stage lurks burned and ruined roux. The ages echo with the screams and curses of cooks who have had all their stirring wasted, with no gumbo to show or eat.
Alton Brown’s brilliant solution is to cook the roux in a cast-iron pot (we love our Lodge Dutch Oven) inside a 350° oven! No more burning, you stir it maybe three times over 90 minutes, and you’re freed up to do something more productive, like deveining the shrimp and making the shrimp stock. The man is a genius, and he comes up with innovations like this all the time.
One ingredient that’s not easy to track down in Racine, Wisconsin is the filé powder. We used Tony Chachere’s Creole Gumbo Filé, found in the spice aisle at Woodman’s Food Market in Kenosha along I-94 at Highway 50.