In most of today’s grocery markets, you can purchase ready-to-use roux. You can usually find a medium and a dark, and you can also find oilless rouxs, which are simply browned flour. But, when you go to make a quick gumbo, and you open the fridge to get that premade roux, and there isnt any….well, you can have chicken and okra soup, or you can make your own roux. It’s a good thing to know how to make. (Especially when your husband asked you oh so nice to please make a gumbo!)
Making a roux is very simple. There are only 2 ingredients, and 2 tools necessary to make it. Vegetable oil and flour, and a good heavy skillet (cast iron is preferable) and a wooden spoon. I’ve known people who’ve made it in the oven, and I’ve heard that you can make it in the microwave. But, I prefer to make the way my mother taught me.
And it’s like this…
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of vegetable oil
- 1 heavy pan, cast-iron or enameled cast iron
Cook over medium heat to medium-low, stirring frequently until desired color is reached.
Now, I have a story to tell.
When my husband and I first married, we moved to California, because, well, why not? I ended up with two catering jobs – one – a daytime, 9 to 5, sit-at-a desk and take orders at a large corporation, and the other job doing what I loved, catering small parties at nights and weekends. It was the best of both sides of the business.
One morning, the Executive Chef at the corporate job came to me and said that he would be making gumbo for the next day’s menu. He asked me to be nice in my critique, but fair. I said no problem! I was really excited to have a taste of real Louisiana food, because at that time, I had never made a pot of gumbo of my own in my life! and was really, really missing Louisiana food (which I never thought I would!)
So, the next day, about 20 minutes before the serving line opened, the Chef signaled me to go out and check out the line. Mind you, they served excellent food here! Every day was fabulous!
I approached the two bain maries, and ladled the gumbo into a bowl. I was immediately perplexed, because the “gumbo” was not brown nor thick, but rather almost as white as chicken noodle soup. Okay, not that white, but pretty blonde. It tasted great, but not like gumbo.
I went to the kitchen and asked the chef what happened to the roux. He said he didn’t have time to make the roux.
Not true, not true.
How do you think gumbo for 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 people gets made?
It is cost-prohibitive to purchase roux for that quantity, when any decent cook can do this.
Do not do as this chef did.
I have seen chef’s and cooks in Louisiana kitchens prepare roux in the ovens in big roasting pans. With temperatures set at 500 degrees, the roux bubbles away. Every time the chef walked by the oven, he pulled out the roasting pan and stirred it using one of those flat spatulas that are usually used to flip 2 or 3 burgers at one time. Within 30 to 40 minutes, the roux was ready. And, a roux and be stored indefinitely in the fridge. These were very experienced cooks and chefs, I don’t recommend starting out with a 500 degree oven!
It is nice and romantic to make your roux special to each dish you make, but the truth be told that most home cooks rely on store bought roux’s, both dry and traditional, in order to skip this time-consuming and tricky step.
You can do this!!