One of the culinary highlights of having a friend who is Cajun was finally learning to make a proper roux. And now I can share that with y’all.
A roux is an emulsion made with flour and fat, usually oil, lard, animal fat or butter. It is the essential base for many classic Cajun and Creole dishes such as étouffée, jambalaya and gumbo. The thing is, the making of a roux is an event, an artform even. A proper dark roux can take several hours to reach the correct shade, and must be monitored and stirred the entire time. The low and slow process allows an incredible depth of flavour to develop which is just not present in a rushed roux.
SC always makes his roux in a cast iron skillet (or frying pan for us Aussies). It takes a little getting used to since the metal retains so much heat, and you need to be cautious not to let the roux burn, cook on a super low flame and be very patient.
If you need a reminder about just how much heat these things retain, just try touching the handle even after the burner has been off for half an hour. You’ll not make that mistake twice.
So essentially, we used equal parts vegetable oil and plain flour (one cup of each). Put the oil in the pan, whisk in the flour, then keep whisking. Turn the burner to medium low, grab a glass of wine or a beer in an LSU coozie (note Australians, thats just Amurican for stubby holder), and settle in for a stir-fest.
Think of your roux like a needy and mischievous toddler – never take your eyes off it and just be extremely patient. Worst case scenarios involve burning or a split roux. Which is totally gross and means you have to start again from scratch.
So, here’s how it starts off when just mixed together:
You’ve got things rolling once the flour starts cooking and those teeny white bubbles on top disappear. Eventually, it turns into this:
Ingredients have emulsified and you’re rocking a lovely peanut butter colour. The burner gets turned down to a low flame at this point, the colour is starting to develop and now you want to try and cook it as long as you can without burning it.
After a few more sips of wine, you start seeing this:
It looks done, right? WRONG! See, I thought this was about as brown as roux goes, but then Southern Comfort pushed me into the danger zone. Have a little faith, hold on tight, and with more patience and stirring, you will end up with this:
DAYUM! That’s one dark, rich and saucy roux! I would rate that about four shades lighter than Vegemite. You need to get it out of the skillet at this point to prevent further cooking/burning. But that’s pretty much it. It’s ready to use. You can also store it in glass jars in the fridge/freezer for ages, just be sure to leave a lil room for expansion.