April 23, 2004

First, you make a roux...

There has been some speculation that 100% of cajun recipes begin with the instructions, "First, you make a roux...". It's an important part of the cuisine, and when a cajun cook says "roux" they usually mean "brown roux."

I've always been pretty lazy with my brown roux making. I usually use a higher fire under the pot than most would approve of, and the roux browns fairly quickly but unevenly. As a result, one can almost never get the dark color (mahogony or chocolate) that most of the time you want for a really rich gumbo or (as was the case last night) jambalaya.

But, for some unknown reason, I decided to keep the fire at a low to medium low, and cooked the flour out very slowly. I had some work going on in the other room, so I kept jumping back and forth to the kitchen to give the roux a stir. It takes almost 45 minutes to make a deep brown roux this way. With the low heat, you really can get it very brown without burnt spots.

To make the rest of the dish, I removed the roux from the pan and cooked down sliced smoked sausages (from the previous weekend's BBQ), diced celery, onion, and bell pepper and a bit of tomato paste. I then returned the roux to the dish, and whisked in the liquid -- 2 cups of chicken stock, 1/2 C white wine, and water to make a total of around 4 cups. Seasoning was whorchester sauce, tabasco, thyme, salt and black pepper.

I cooked the sauce/stock out for about 10-15 minutes. Roux based sauces need around 30 minutes of cooking to avoid gritty or pasty mouthfeel, and rice takes 20 minutes to cook, so I added time on the front end. Then 1 C of long grain rice went in, the cover went on, and it cooked over very low heat for the remainder of the time. I tossed in a handful of rock shrimp right at the end, they only take a minute or two.

You know what? That long cooked roux really does make a difference. Rats.

Posted by dowdy at April 23, 2004 05:08 AM