Most good Cajun recipes start with "first you make a roux . . ." But that's easier said than done. Making a good roux takes time, patience and a lot of practice. It is well worth the effort, though.
A roux is simply a mixture of flour and fat, usually butter or oil. In classical French cuisine, the roux is used primarily as a thickening agent. The Cajun method takes this a step further, cooking the roux longer which adds more richness and depth to its flavor.
While there are numerous types of rouxs -- which differ in cooking time and the types of fat used -- there are two versions that reign supreme in Cajun cooking: the light brown roux and the dark brown roux.
Dark rouxs form the base of gumbos, sauce piquantes, and bisques. Light rouxs are used to make étouffées and stews.
The best way to tackle this technique is to start out low and slow, cooking the roux for about an hour using minimal heat. As you get more comfortable with the process, you can add more heat and cut down the cooking time. And this recipe does just that, giving you a roux in about 20-25 minutes.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 to 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oil in a cast iron skillet using high heat -- not to the smoking point.
- Sprinkle a pinch of flour into the oil. If it bubbles at a quick pace, then the oil is just right.
- Slowly add the remaining flour, whisking constantly. Stop adding flour when the roux is the consistency of a heavy sauce.
- The mixture should continue bubbling at the same pace. Ease the whisking if the bubbling stops.
- After the first two minutes, switch from a whisk to a spatula. Continue to stir the mixture, making sure to move the roux off the bottom of the pot.
- The roux will finish bubbling and start browning. At this point, begin to lower the heat slowly. Continue to stir the mixture, making sure to move the roux off the bottom of the pot.
- For a light roux, cook the mixture until it is the color of a new copper penny. For a dark roux, cook the mixture until it is the color of an old copper penny.
- Remove from heat.