By Tim H. Martin
With Quick Brown Roux Instructions!
Ingredients (all except roux):
• One whole chicken or 4 chicken breasts, skin-on
• 16 oz. smoked sausage, thinly sliced, preferably Andouille
• 2 cups okra, sliced (optional)
• 4 quarts water to boil chicken, reserving 2 quarts as stock
• 3 bay leaves
• 1 heaping tablespoon Creole seasoning
• 1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
• 2 tablespoons hot sauce of your choice (I prefer Louisiana Hot Sauce)
• 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon basil
• 2 tablespoons filé powder (add just before serving)
• Kosher or sea salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste
Directions (before making roux):
Simmer chicken 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming away foam and fat periodically. Remove chicken, set aside and allow it to cool. Strain broth, reserving 2 quarts in large pot. After chicken cools, pull the meat into bite-sized pieces and put them in a pot with the broth. Add sausage, okra, Creole seasoning, Cayenne pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Slowly warm the ingredients in the pot while you complete the next step, making the roux. Remember to skim sausage fat as it rises and not add herbs until the fat has been skimmed sufficiently. Save the filé powder and herbs until the final 15 minutes of cooking.
Ingredients for Quick Brown Roux:
• 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil (I prefer peanut oil, which is flavorful and more forgiving)
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 4 ribs celery, chopped
• 7 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/4 cup green onions, chopped (optional). Use bulbs for roux, green stems for garnish.
Directions for Quick Brown Roux:
Before heating the oil, have your vegetables chopped and close by. Once you start the roux-making process, you cannot stop. In a cast iron skillet or heavy pot, heat oil slightly hotter than medium heat, until it shimmers and a test-sprinkle of flour readily sizzles. You are going to add all-purpose flour in three equal parts.
1) Add the first third of the flour, stirring slowly and constantly with a wooden spoon. Brown the flour to the color of peanut butter, about a minute.
2) Add the second third of the flour and continue stirring slowly until it turns the color of peanut butter again.
3) Add remaining third of the flour and stir until it’s the color of peanut butter once more, or slightly darker. A milk chocolate color is perfect.
4) Add the onions, green onion bulbs, celery and bell pepper and cook for about a minute before tossing in the garlic. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. The flour-browning process should only take about 7-10 minutes, and about 5 more for the veggies.
Final Gumbo Steps
Pour finished roux into the gumbo pot with the already warming main ingredients. Bring the gumbo to a slow simmer for about 20 minutes, with the lid partially ajar. Stir occasionally and skim one last time before adding the filé powder, oregano, thyme and basil. Simmer an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow gumbo to cool a bit, then ladle over bowls of white rice. Garnish with chopped green onion stems and serve with hot sauce, crackers and a sprinkle of filé powder. Buttered biscuits or slices of French bread go well with this meal. Leftovers freeze well.
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Quick Brown Roux Tips
– By Tim H. Martin
This method doesn’t require endless stirring and is less intimidating than most roux methods. It’s a brown roux that’s less likely to scorch than a dark roux — perfect for beginners!
Even experienced foodies are sometimes intimidated by attempting a roux, but they really shouldn’t be. It only takes a few minutes, and once you get the hang of it, it’s really no big deal. If for some reason the flour scorches, simply toss the batch and start over. Oil and flour are cheap.
Peanut oil is great to learn with, because of its high smoking point and flavor. It’s more forgiving than other popular fats for roux, which include butter, vegetable oil, bacon grease and canola oil. I know one chef whose secret roux trick is mixing bacon grease with canola oil.
An old cast iron skillet is my weapon of choice. Cooking roux helps bring old cast iron back to life, and it’s great for your pans. Simply rinse them with hot water immediately after use and wipe dry.
Roux making is messy, so take it slow and easy. Use a long-handled wooden spoon and stir carefully to prevent sloshing. I know from experience that splashed hot oil hurts, so wear shoes, along with an old shirt you don’t mind getting oil on.
The Quick Brown method uses slightly hotter temps, so if it starts to smoke or seems too hot, simply slide the skillet away from the heat and continue stirring until it behaves. Have an oven mitt ready, because you’ll likely move the skillet off and on the stove eye a couple of times. If lots of black flecks start popping up, it’s scorched, and I recommend starting over. If you’re stirring constantly, this shouldn’t happen.
A little smoke is normal during the flour-browning process, so turn on your kitchen fan, but turn the fan off after you add the vegetables, because it smells amazing.
The most critical stage is the moment you’ve finally determined the flour is dark enough. Adding the vegetables cools the browning process of the flour and oil, so you can worry less about scorching at this point.
Add the onions first. They will caramelize nicely and add richness if given a slight head start over the other veggies. But be careful! They produce hot steam, so use a spatula to ease them into the roux.
Traditional Cajun roux contains what is commonly known as the trinity: onion, bell pepper and celery. Garlic and green onions are becoming common additions because they add aroma and layers of flavor. Colored bell peppers, leeks, Poblanos and other peppers are fun to experiment with, too.
Have fun! Remember to put on some music and relax while cooking your roux. From years of cooking gumbo, I’ve noticed guests usually file into the kitchen to see what smells so good when the vegetables go into the roux. Like I’ve always said, it ain’t a party till the garlic hits the pan!