I want to make gumbo but I cannot find file powder at any of our local markets. I know that file powder is groung sassafra leaves but is there a substitute for this ingredient?
I think that the reason you can't find it is that sassafras is thought to be carcinogenic, which I'm not sure how to spell! I had just looked this up a few weeks ago and bookmarked a link on how to make your own, not sure if that is helpful or not.
Here is a link that might be useful: file powder link
Penzeys has File. Lots of different size options.
Here is a link that might be useful: Gumbo File at Penzeys
According to Wikipedia, safrole is found in sassafras roots but not in the leaf. Safrole is the item that has been found to cause cancer in lab rats, but apparently it's not present in file, which is made from the leaf.
But if you're so health conscious that you're intimidated by a little file powder, you probably ought to stay away from Cajun food anyway. (Grin) It's zingy, tasty, rich, yummy--but healthy? Well, that's kinda way down on the list. The nitrates in the andouille sausage are probably worse for you than the file powder.
By the way, some people add the file to the whole pot of gumbo (a few minutes before serving) to thicken it up. In my family, we served the gumbo without file and then left the jar of file on the table so each diner could add however much he or she wanted. Some people (myself included) like it a lot, others find it a bit slimy. Chacun a son gout.
Here is a link that might be useful: file powder at wikipedia
Hee Hee! I do nails for a living and File Powder has a whole different meaning to me. Ew!!
I never use file to thicken gumbo. I make my gumbos with a rich roux and its pretty thick without it.
If you or your guests like file, serve it on the side.
Many people use okra to thicken gumbo.
Most cooks in Louisiana use file powder as a seasoning and not for thickening. Typical gumbos are thickened with a dark roux and/or okra. BTW Cajuns do not like their gumbo slimy. That's why they smother their okra real well and don't cook file powder into their gumbo. Cook file too long and it gets slimy. Don't cook okra long enough and it stays slimy.
File powder is usually served at the table along with a shaker bottle of hot pepper vinegar (whole Cayenne or Tabasco peppers steeped in white vinegar)......note: pepper vinegar is not the same as La Hot Sauce. A few dashes of file powder along with a few dashes of pepper vinegar will really add tremendous flavor to any gumbo.
Below is a link to a source for file powder and instant roux.
Here is a link that might be useful: File Powder
I only use File Powder as a seasoning on the top of the gumbo. It is never used as a thickening agent....the roux is made of butter and flour or oil and flour.
Just my opinion (he he)
I always have okra in my gumbo (I love okra!), but I also make a roux with oil and flour - never butter. I also add fil powder, and if you can't find it, you could make your own by grinding up sassafras tea. I can't think of what would be a good substitute for the flavor of sassafras - possibly a tiny bit of sage, although sage is about 5 times as strong in flavor.
I love okra, but don't like it slimy. To prevent sliminess you add about a teaspoon of vinegar to the cooking liquid.
Lemon Balm, although that may be harder to find than File Powder.