A lot of Acadian and Creole recipes start this way. Roux is the foundation for most dishes in NOLA Cuisine: Gumbo, Crawfish Pie, Courtbouillon (COO-be-yon), Grillades, etc… Making a good Roux is essential! This isn’t the French Roux, I’m talking about here! This is the Acadian Roux, that deep chocolate colored Roux that makes Gumbo what it is! I like cookbooks with some history in them, you know, where the dish came from, the evolution, that sort of thing. Cajun & Creole Cookbooks are great for this, the first recipe I read when I get a new one is ROUX. Usually Chapter One. It’s fascinating how something as simple as cooked flour and fat, can be so different in each cookbook. I don’t always cook my Roux the same, I like to experiment. One thing that I do differently than a lot of cookbooks is, not only do I cook the roux in advance, but I add it after the liquid. I find that I have more control over the consistency of the dish this way, especially if I’m making a huge batch of a Gumbo or Soup. Just remember, only add cold roux to hot liquid, or cold liquid to hot roux. Also, Roux doesn’t come to its full thickening power until it boils, and Dark Roux doesn’t have as much thickening power as a White Roux. If you do make your Roux ahead, it keeps well in the fridge for a long time. Anyway, here is the latest way that I made my roux:
1 Cup Homemade Rendered Lard (Hey, what can I say? Lard has the best flavor! You can use Vegetable Oil though.)
1 3/4 Cup A.P. Flour ( I always gradually add the flour, you may need more or less. It should be thick, but not clumpy)
1 or 2 Bottles of Good quality Beer, like Dixie or Abita (optional)
Heat you lard over Medium Heat until good and hot, while the oil is heating, open a beer. Gradually whisk in your flour until smooth. At this time, I generally switch to a wooden spoon, it gets into the crevices better; take a sip of beer. You want to stir constantly, but not too fast, this is a southern dish. Slow down, have some beer. Picture a streetcar lazily lumbering down St. Charles Avenue. I can remember my mentor Chef watching as I whisked my Roux as if it were a bowl of egg whites. He said, “What are you doing? Let it cook! If you stir too fast, it cools down. It needs to cook!” I always think of that when I make Roux. However, you do want to keep that Roux movin’. If it starts getting too brown as you stir, pull that baby of the burner for a minute, lower the heat a smidge, and For God’s sake, Don’t splash it on your skin, Chef Paul calls it Cajun Napalm, you’ll know what he means if it gets you. I gradually lower the heat as I cook Roux. Anyway, after about 10-12 minutes on the streetcar, the roux will start to look like wet sand, peanut butter colored. Drink some beer (I failed to mention, every shade of brown the roux turns, you should have a gulp of beer). Take it nice and slow, turning the heat down if necessary, opening another beer if necessary. In about 10-12 more minutes, Your Roux will look like milk chocolate. This is where I get off the streetcar, a lot of cooks take it further down the line, but this is my stop. I then let it cool at room temperature for awhile, then cover and chill.