Two things in life that I dearly love are is a good chicken and sausage gumbo, and "real" brown gravy.
But up until now, my best gumbo came from a mix. Gravy, too.
Bayou Magic Gumbo mix is the best of the gumbo mixes, in my opinion. It has all of the seasoning, the dried ingredients, even powdered roux--all you have to do is add water or broth and whatever meat or seafood you want. It's good, but I wanted to learn how to make the real, rich, only-from-homemade gumbo. I tried some other packaged roux products, but none of them had that just right taste.
And as for making brown gravy, well, I could get it to look right, but not taste right.
And in both of these cases, the problem was in the roux--that mixture of flour and oil or grease, browned to perfection, that adds not just the thickener but a whole layer of flavor to the finished product. My problem with roux, I've discovered, is that I'm too impatient, I brown it too fast, and it doesn't have time to develop that good, rich flavor that adds so much to gumbo or gravy. And if it ever cooks too fast and burns, you have to throw it all out and start over again.
Years ago a co-worker gave me a recipe for a technique that made the roux in the oven. I passed it on to my family, but I never really tried it myself, I just stuck with my gumbo mix and gravy packets. Finally, though, I decided to bite the bullet and learn how to make this yummy base for myself.
After a quick phone call to my sister (who's husband swears by this technique) to refresh my memory of the details, I dove on in.
Isn't this the most beautiful rich roux you've ever seen?? Next time I'm going to go for it and let it get even darker, but I was afraid it would get too dark and have that burnt taste that some roux gets.
My kitchen smelled so good!
After it cooled, I tasted it--did you know that oil and flour, if cooked correctly, have a taste? And it's a good one, too! This is not just a thickener, it's that added layer of flavor I've been missing.
And now you're ready to go! You can use it then, or let it cool and refrigerate it until you need it. You may get some separation when it's cool, with a small layer of oil rising to the top, but stir before you use it--just like with natural peanut butter.
If you're adding it to soup or stew or gumbo, spoon some roux into a bowl or big cup, add some warn broth or stock, stir well, and then add it to the pot--otherwise it will lump up.
For gravy, place a tablespoon or two in your saucepan, and heat slowly, whisking in the liquid to prevent lumps.
I hope you enjoy your roux, this is one technique that's definitely a keeper. I made the best roux I've ever made, and with my timer I was able to go about my business without being chained to the stove stirring constantly.
Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!