Millet Roux–Mushroom Gumbo
Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco
"When making this dish, remember two things: 1) a homemade vegetable stock makes all the difference in the world, and 2) a slow-simmered roux is essential for getting the deep, rich flavor that is the hallmark of Louisiana gumbos. The combination of these two will bring your folks back for seconds and thirds (you might consider doubling the recipe, wink-wink).
Believe me, I’m not above using store-bought vegetable stock, or a quality vegan bouillon cube for that matter, when I’m in a pinch. But nothing compares to the clean, fresh, and full-bodied flavor of stock that you’ve made from scratch. If you cut corners, people will still devour this dish. But trust me, you will be glad you put in the extra effort, as you’ll be able to taste the difference.
If you aren’t familiar with classic Louisiana cooking, roux, typically equal parts flour and fat, is the foundation of a tasty gumbo. In addition to adding bold flavor, roux serves as a thickener. All-purpose flour is used to make a classic roux. But I worked on a gluten-free version for months, and I struck gold when I discovered that millet flour gives the roux a nutty flavor that further emboldens the taste of this gumbo. You might not find millet flour at your local supermarket, but some specialty stores carry it. You can easily find some online, too. Same for file, ground sassafras leaves used for further thickening gumbo.
To be clear, there is no getting around the time-consuming nature of roux preparation. On a stove top, it would take more than an hour preparing this roux. I offer an oven method to slightly decrease the time.
This gumbo makes 6 to 8 full servings, but if it is being served as a part of a larger spread, it can easily feed more. Enjoy with your favorite rice." —Bryant Terry
- 3/4 cup millet flour
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- Fine sea salt
- 1 pound portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 6 cups vegetable stock, at room temperature
- 2 stalks celery, chopped into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 7 tablespoons chopped thyme, divided
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions (green parts only), for serving
- Steamed rice, for serving
- Filé powder, for serving
Heat the oven to 350°F. In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together the millet flour and 1/2 cup olive oil. Place in the oven and bake, whisking every 20 to 30 minutes, until it turns the color of a roasted chickpea and has a nutty aroma, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms: in a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the shiitake mushrooms, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fork-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a medium bowl.
Next, add 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, and crank the heat up to high. Add the cremini mushrooms in one layer and cook, without stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid, most of it evaporates, and the mushrooms start to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Toss the mushrooms and cook for an additional minute or so, until browned on the second side. Transfer to the bowl with the shiitakes and season with salt.
Coat the bottom of the skillet with 2 to 3 more tablespoons oil. Without overcrowding, add portobello mushrooms in one layer and cook, still over high heat, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the mushrooms and cook until browned on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms, in batches, adding more oil when necessary.
To the now-empty skillet, pour in about 1/2 cup stock and bring to a rapid simmer while scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to remove any browned bits. Pour back into the container with the remaining stock.
When the roux is ready, transfer the pot to the stove and place over low heat. Add the celery, green bell peppers, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes. While whisking constantly, pour in the stock mixture and raise the heat to high. Continue to whisk while the mixture comes up to a boil. Add the tamari, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the gumbo is darkened in color, very thick, and flavorful, about 45 minutes.
Add the reserved shiitake and cremini mushrooms to the gumbo and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 tablespoons thyme and simmer for an additional minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the gumbo in shallow bowls with rice pushed to one side and the gumbo on the other, topped with the seared portobellos, and garnished with green onions, thyme, and a sprinkle of filé powder.
6 to 8 servings