The process of preparing Cajun food is in no way hurried and involves a layering of flavors which allows each ingredient to maintain its own identity.
The foundation of preparing authentic Cajun dishes like gumbo, sauce piquant and etouffee is the Cajun roux (pronounced ‘rue’). Good roux is neither undercooked nor overcooked. Undercooking will yield a less full-bodied flavor and overcooking to the point of being burned will yield a bitter taste.
The French roux is usually a blend of equal parts flour and butter cooked slowly until bubbly and well blended, but not browned. The typical Cajun roux is a blend of equal parts of flour and fat, cooked together in a heavy pot over high heat until a medium brown color is reached. Roux must be stirred constantly to prevent burning. Some people prefer a roux made with approximately one-fourth cup more oil than flour.
Most often, when Cajun roux is called for, finely chopped onion and bell pepper is added to the browned roux to arrest the cooking temperature and prevent the roux from scorching. This step begins the cooking of the desired dish, such as a gumbo or sauce piquant.
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flower
Heat vegetable oil in a heavy Dutch oven or 12-inch skillet over high heat. When oil is hot, add flour all at once; stir or whisk quickly to combine flour and oil. If necessary, use the back of a wooden spoon to smooth out any lumps of flour. Stir or whisk constantly, until roux reaches desired color (between a peanut butter and mahogany color) and has a nut-like aroma. Recipe yields a scant 1-1/2 cups of roux.
(1) If small black or brown specks appear while preparing roux, it has burned and should be discarded. A burned roux will give a bitter or scorched flavor.
(2) Roux may be prepared ahead - cover, refrigerate and use within 1 week.
(3) To prepare extra roux for later use, batches may be prepared by increasing oil and flour in equal amounts.
(4) Freezes beautifully. (Freeze in 1-cup portions for up to 6 months. )
(5) Caution: Be extremely careful when stirring and handling roux during preparation. With a temperature exceeding 500F, roux splashed on the skin will stick and cause a severe burn.
Preparing an authentic Cajun roux is not difficult once you know how. If you follow the above recipe exactly, you will be able to successfully prepare a roux to equal that of any well-experienced Cajun chef.
Copyright ©2005 Janice Faulk Duplantis
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About the Author: Janice Faulk Duplantis, author and publisher, currently maintains a web site that focuses on both Easy Gourmet and French/Cajun Cuisine. Visit http://www.bedrockpress.com to see all that Bedrock Press has to offer. Janice also publishes 4 free monthly ezines: Gourmet Bytes, Lagniappe Recipe, Favorite Recipes and Cooking 101. Visit http://www.bedrockpress.com/subscribe.html to subscribe.