I grew up watching Demeter make roux. She made it for a German spinach recipe that she got from Zeus’s mom. She made it for cream gravy for chicken fried steak. But we never needed to make our roux as dark as it needs to be made for gumbo and Cajun food. A dark roux is the essential flavor base for some of your favorite Cajun dishes. Master this and you’re well on your way to recreating some great bayou dinners.
It gives me a bit of a thrill to make a dark roux. One that’s the color of chocolate: a deep, dark brown. When you’re making one, the pan and fat get really hot. You have to stir the flour like mad with a wooden spoon. The spoon itself darkens a bit after making one. Don’t even dream of using a spatula, it would surely melt. And mind your stirrings don’t splash anything. A friend says roux is Cajun napalm. They are not wrong.
But none of this is difficult – just roller coaster thrilling – as only cooking can be. Add to that the Cajun Holy Trinity, a kick of spice from some tasso ham and a shake or two of Tabasco, and if you’ve made this on a first date, you two might just fall in love.
Acadian Gumbo, serves 6, at least
3 T fat (lard, bacon drippings, or vegetable oil)
3 T flour
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
8 oz tasso ham, cut in small cubes
3 links Andouille sausage, sliced in rounds
1 duck breast, fat removed and saved for rendering later, sliced into thin strips
8 c stock (I used vegetable, but chicken is fine; if it’s not homemade, use water)
½ bottle of beer if you want a bit to drink while you’re cooking, if not, use the whole thing. I used Shiner 101.
1 c okra, sliced
½ lb catfish, cut into large chunks
Green onions, sliced thinly into rounds
PK tip – This is one of those recipes that you must do all the prep first before you even turn on the pan. This is particularly true because of the roux. It browns quickly towards the end and to stop it from burning, you dump in the onions, bell pepper and celery. You have to have all your prep work done first. Besides, you want to drink a little beer while you’re making this.
Make the– In a large stock pot, melt the fat over medium high heat, then sprinkle with the flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the flour and fat is the color of chocolate. To me, the mixture had a bit of a chili powder-colored tinge to it.
When the roux is dark, add the onion, bell pepper and celery, reduce heat to medium and cook for five minutes or until softened. You’ll notice that this is starting to make a kind of sauce from the vegetables letting go of their liquid and mixing with the roux. This is already getting gorgeous.
Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and the ham, sausage and duck. Stir to coat with the spices. Add in the stock, beer and okra. Let simmer for at least two hours. But I let this batch go for six.
Add in the catfish about 12 to 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve. PK tip – I suggested catfish for this recipe, but feel free to substitute other fish or seafood such as shrimp or red snapper. Gumbo recipes are as varied as Mommas who make them. Everybody’s is a bit different. Make this like you want. Be creative. Persephone loves when you’re creative with her recipes.
Taste for seasoning, and adjust with salt, pepper, Tabasco, as needed.
Serve over rice, sprinkled with green onions and parsley and a wedge of lemon.
Playlist included Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing by Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Tom Waits.