Having the right roux for your gumbo can make all the difference in the world. Here’s a recipe for success.
Making a roux is something every cooking Cajun loves to do. It is something that you have to enjoy, standing at the stove and stirring constantly. I love cooking on the stove or outside on a burner, and there is no better way than doing it that way to get the roux just right.
So, you may ask me how you got it right, Hebert?
The perfect pot of gumbo requires a roux that’s dark and thick. It takes equal parts all-purpose flour to cooking oil and a lot of patience in stirring. The secret is to keep stirring, and to not let the roux burn. If it does, you have to throw it away and start over.
At times, I get easily distracted by what life throws our way. It takes practice, commitment, and patience. And, still, there were times I burned the roux by not paying attention; it can and does happen.
I invite you to keep reading to find out how to get the roux perfect for your next gumbo.
What a True Cajun Does Before Starting a Roux
As Cajuns, we are firm in our heritage, and we carry a lot of love with us in our hearts. Before we do anything, all that love goes into the pot as it comes from deep down in our souls.
Cooking is a form of art to me, and we love to let it shine in our dishes as we serve others who are hungry and ready to eat, mostly our families and our friends.
We offer our thanks and count our blessings as they are Godsend for those who believe in the higher power. I imagine my family and friends enjoying the meal and sharing stories before starting on the ingredients (this is my inspiration).
There is plenty of time to think about how they will enjoy it, so we begin with the oil and the flour, which is the source of the roux.
Fat/Oil, Flour, and a Lot of Stirring
This is what’s needed:
- A wooden spoon or spatula;
- A pot with a heavy bottom and thick walls.
- 6 ounces/140 grams all-purpose flour;
- 6 ounces/140 grams unsalted butter or cooking oil.
Use equal parts all-purpose flour and fat/oil. Technically, you could use any fat or oil, but unsalted butter produces the best roux. The quantity above yields 12 ounces / 380 grams of roux, right about enough to thicken 1 gallon / 4 liters of liquid.
Pull out a medium-sized pot with a heavy bottom and thick walls. Not your bottom, that is, but the bottom of the pot. As you can see, we also add humor to the mix of ingredients!
Start by adding your butter or cooking oil to the pot. Turn up the heat to medium, and add the cup of flour slowly into the butter or oil while constantly stirring with a spatula or spoon (I prefer a wooden spoon).
You will continue stirring till it becomes thick and bubbly.
Let me say this: do not walk away from the stove! A Cajun does not leave anything unattended on the stove because we love our food too much, especially our roux.
It is crucial to pay attention so you do not burn it, and if you do burn it, just get another pot and start over. This means more ingredients getting added in again if that happens.
Keep stirring with a wooden spoon so nothing burns and clumps together, making it harder to dissolve in the pot when it is time to add your other ingredients.
Stir carefully for about twenty minutes until it begins to darken more than when you started. You will know it is dark enough by the color, and if you stick the spoon in, it should stand up on its own.
It is more common that people undercook their roux, but they are easy to fix. Just add very little water while constantly stirring until you get the desired result, then let it simmer until it reaches how thick you want your gumbo.
Do not worry about your roux getting too dark or burnt; this only happens to professionals who may be rushed for time (never try to rush a roux).
The Color Change of the Roux, and How It Affects Your Gumbo
Keep stirring until your roux changes color to a dark brown, almost blackish.
It will start out white, then turn tan, and then turn brown. The color of the base will be the color of your gumbo. How dark brown you want depends on you. I love it dark brown, which gives a beautiful dark and rich flavor.
It takes patience and time to cook a perfect roux, so enjoy the process! It is best not to time it as it can make a person impatient, especially as the outstanding aroma fills the house.
Trying to rush things after stirring for twenty minutes will only lead to problems with the roux possibly burning or getting too clumpy in one spot. You should go by the texture and make sure it is smooth and not clumpy.
While you’re at it, use your sense of smell to ensure it is not burning. Trust me, you will know if it is burning or not by the smell.
How to Tell the Roux is Done
The roux can be cooked for up to 45 minutes, but it takes a seasoned gumbo cook to tell the difference. This is done by stirring and watching the color of the roux. I can tell by sticking the spoon in it because it tends to stand up without help.
You can see that cooking a roux does not have to be hard as long as you pay attention, follow directions from those who know-how, and just have some patience! Once you have your perfect roux, you are ready to add it into your pot with all your other ingredients.
Adding All the Ingredients Together
This is where people differ in their style, but I will go ahead and tell you how I cook my gumbo. I removed all of the roux and put it separately in another container using water to get it out of the pot.
Using the same pot, I add some more oil to fry the meats, whether chicken, sausage, or seafood. All of the meat is seasoned and ready to fry.
Once everything is browned to perfection and cooked thoroughly, I remove the meat and the fried stuff from the bottom of the pot. This is where your flavor is hidden, and I return, adding the roux and a gallon of water.
I let the roux dissolve entirely into the high boiling water, creating the gumbo juice for about 20 to 30 minutes, then added the meat back to the pot. I bring everything to a high boil for another 30 minutes (depending on the meat used for cooking).
Here is where the magic comes into play! I turn the fire down low and slow, cooking with the lid on after adding the onions, bell peppers, and celery. I prefer garlic to celery because it gives it a better flavor.
After a couple of stirs here and there, it simmers for about 45 minutes. You want to add the veggies last because they will lose most of their flavor as it cooks down for too long.
Briefly, Summing it Up
So, there it is! The perfect roux led you straight to the perfect gumbo! It’s a Cajun thing, and we love it!