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Old 03-20-2017, 07:33 AM   #1
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Do You Cook With File'?

File' (fee lay) or gumbo file' powder is ground sassafras leaves. It is mostly used for thickening gumbo and stews in Cajun cooking, either during the cooking process or at the table. So, how do you use it, if at all?


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Old 03-20-2017, 08:04 AM   #2
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I have and I didn't think it added much to the party so I have not tried it again in years.

When I make gumbo, which is infrequently at best, I use okra to thicken it.

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Old 03-20-2017, 09:07 AM   #3
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I only use it if I'm in a restaurant, eating gumbo, and there just happens to be a jar of it sitting on the table. In those rare instances, I might be inclined to sprinkle a bit on my gumbo.

Other than that, I don't use it at all. I once had a small jar that sat in the cupboard for a dozen or more years. I ended up tossing it out and have never felt the need to buy a replacement.

I've never cooked with it. I used to have a roommate from Louisiana who told me it should be used more as a condiment, or, if added during cooking, to only add it at the very end before serving. His recommendation was to put it on the table, and if people choose to add it they can.
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:23 AM   #4
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I've heard of it but I don't really know what it is. I've never cooked with it. I live in the northern US, so that may come as no surprise.
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:55 AM   #5
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I know what it is, but I've never cooked with it, either.
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Old 03-20-2017, 11:17 AM   #6
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I used it once, just out of curiosity. I had heard about it on a cooking show, and happen to have an over abundance of it. It couldn't have had too much of an impact on me, cause i haven't used it since.
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Old 03-20-2017, 11:37 AM   #7
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I've probably had it in Nawlins gumbo in NOLA, but personally have not cooked with it.

What do you think about it, Craig?
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Old 03-20-2017, 11:46 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by CraigC View Post
File' (fee lay) or gumbo file' powder is ground sassafras leaves. It is mostly used for thickening gumbo and stews in Cajun cooking, either during the cooking process or at the table. So, how do you use it, if at all?
As you note here, file powder is used as a thickener, which is an important thing in a gumbo. If you make your gumbo with okra (which is very common), you technically don't need to use file as a thickener. But, you can add a tablespoon of it for the unique flavor benefit.

Having said that, I haven't made the same gumbo back-to-back with and without the file powder to compare them. It's likely that file used as a flavoring would be so subtle that it could be missed (particularly considering how spicy my gumbos tend to be).

And, here's another thing. "Gumbo" isn't a locked-down specific thing that can only be done one way. What we consider to be gumbo today - with browned roux being a key component - is a Paul Prudhomme invention that became accepted as law in the 1980s. I'm not knocking Paul Prudhomme's credentials, but the fact remains that there's a long, rich history of different ways to make gumbo: some of them use file powder, some don't.
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Old 03-20-2017, 11:47 AM   #9
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I agree with most of the other posters here. I have a jar of it but have only used it a couple of times with unimpressive results. To thicken gumbo I use a couple TBS cornstarch dissolved in a half cup water.
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Old 03-20-2017, 12:01 PM   #10
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Quick question. Does anyone use file for any dish other than gumbo???

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