November 16th, 2009

First We Make a Roux

hero 1 gumbo

Periodically, as GFM readers know, I duck out of city life–if only for a few daytime hours–to clear my head, breathe in a little countrified air, and cook up something tasty with prima-donna- south-louisiana-cuisinière-extraordinaire, friend Maggie.

Seeing as we each had a little bit of this and a little bit of that, between us, we realized, were the fixin’s for a my-t-fine gumbo.

I had a pound of shrimp and a chicken breast in my freezer. Along with one lonely piece of andouille sausage, Maggie had the veggies, including tomatoes, peppers, and okra harvested from her garden.

And, the essential oil–flour–cast iron skillet. Roux!

Gumbo-making is really an easy process, but you need to allot a chunk of time for the roux. About 1 hour and 10 minutes, in this case. Once made, though, it will last a long time, and serve to thicken sauces and soups, adding that particular toasty note.

And there is something special about a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet–it just does a righteous job taking roux to deep mahogany .

step 1 flour

Maggie’s skillet almost disappears on her black stovetop!

step 2

The wooden spoon feels like the right utensil for stirring.
This is low heat, low tech, baby! Feel the love.

step 3

Oh, yez—it’s gettin’ thick.
Keep moving the flour/oil around in the skillet so that it won’t stick.
Don’t turn your back so it won’t burn—
that would spell the bitter end to the batch!

step 4

Whoo-hoo! So shiny and pretty!
Once the roux begins to really get that rich dark red-brown color, remove it from the burner. The residual heat in the skillet will continue to cook it somewhat.
Your roux is good-to-go.

The Roux
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups unbleached white flour
cast-iron skillet, wooden spoon, a little over one hour of your undivided loving attention. It’s a zen-thing.

makes about 2 cups of nice, dark roux.
Now, on to the Gumbo….

Some make gumbo with shrimp and andouille sausage.
Some make it with chicken and andouille sausage.
We decided to go for the whole she-bang,
because we could. But the beauty of gumbo is that you can take it whatever direction suits your fancy. If you want to make it with a turkey kielbasa, that’s cool, too.


Maggie maintains that gumbo should have good kick—but not be fire-breathing fierce. That’s why it is traditionally served with hot sauce on the side.

You’ll find that this gumbo will develop more heat over time—thanks to the andouille. It’s better the next day, if it lasts that long.

She also believes that no herbs are needed; if you have good stock, smoky-hot sausage, vegetables, and your brown-gold, you’ll have abundant flavor.

okra in the pot

After you’ve sauteed “the trinity,” it’s time to throw in the okra.

add the roux

Spooning in the roux: Isn’t the contrast amazing?

ready to serve

Everything Gumbo (Shrimp, Chicken, Andouille Sausage)

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion, diced
2 Bell Peppers, diced
3-4 ribs Celery, leaves included, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups chopped, roasted Okra
2 cups Tomatoes and juice
1 piece about 1/4 lb. Andouille Sausage, sliced thin
1 cup Roux
1 Chicken Breast, roasted, meat pulled, chunked, pan deglazed for chicken stock (you can use whatever piece(s) of chicken you like)
1 lb large Shrimp, peeled and deveined–reserve shells for stock
Stocks: 2 cups shrimp stock, 2 cups roasted chicken stock**
a couple of pinches or so of cayenne–you decide

Heat olive oil in a stockpot on medium and add “the trinity”–onions, bell peppers, and celery. Sauté until onion is translucent and begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the okra—frozen chopped okra from the supermarket works just fine—most of us don’t have 15 bags in our freezer harvested from our garden like Maggie does!

Then add canned tomatoes and juices. The okra will begin to cook down–adding its own thickening power. Add shrimp stock, chicken stock. Stir well, and put in the andouille sausage. It will impart smokiness and a distinctive kick.

NOW it’s time to stir in the “brown-gold”—the mixture will get all glossy. You can tweak viscosity with more or less liquid or roux.
Taste for salt, and season.
Chicken next.
Last thing: the shrimp. Stir them into the hot pot, cover, and remove from heat. This way the shrimp will cook, but won’t toughen or get mealy.

Serve over jasmine rice. Wow.

Makes over 3 quarts.

the spread_001

**shrimp stock is made quickly–like in 15 minutes of simmering shrimp shells in 2-3 cups of water with a piece of onion, lemon, celery leaves, salt and black pepper.
**chicken stock is made by simply deglazing your chicken roasting pan with 2 cups of water and scraping up all the browned bits

shrimp stock

Posted in Recipes, Soups/Stews

7 Responses to “First We Make a Roux”
  1. Ben Frank from I Ate That! Says:

    yum! for gumbo, i’ve typically taken alton brown’s cheating route of baking the roux. same amount of time, but much less worrying and work. but, then again, good stuf is almost always worth the wait.

  2. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    These are very good instructions on a fundamental cooking process. I adore the smokiness of gumbo, and the nuttiness that a proper roux adds. Yum!

  3. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hey Ben—I, too, have done the “cheater” Alton Brown baking method—and it does work pretty well. I prefer the traditional way, more time, yes— and more control, plus more satisfaction. stirring-stovetop therapy!

  4. Fluffy Says:

    Maggie’s Farm skillet looks as though it is filled with coke does that help roux??
    I would name this taming of the roux….

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Fluff-too funny. you’re quite the comedian today.

  6. claudia @ ceF Says:

    i know nothing of this food. i kind of avoid it. isn’t that odd? but i’m sure done with love and care it is wonderful. but man, the cheap version of cajun food? not my thing.

    needless to say i am quite sure that yours couldn’t be beat…

  7. Chris Wimberly Says:

    Just like my mamma makes it

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