Sunday, November 23, 2008

First, You Make Some Roux...

I've mentioned a roux ("roo") several times in recent posts and a reader asked me if I could give a little more how to information. Here is a series of photos that I took Saturday.

The thing to note is that nothing much happens in the first ten or twelve minutes of cooking and then all hell breaks loose in the last five minutes. Your strict attention during the last few minutes is critical.

Time Zero. I put one part flour and one part fat (in this case, canola oil; often, duck fat) into the pan over high heat. Here, it's not even mixed yet.

3 Minutes. I took a photo at this point because I want you to look at it. See all the foam and bubbles? That's the water boiling off from the flour. This is why you never want to dump flour into really hot oil. If all this water flashed to steam suddenly, you could end up in the hospital with terrible burns all over your face. Despite what the macho chefs tell you, don't do it. Start with cold oil and flour.

8 Minutes. You can see fewer bubbles and the tiniest hint of color, indicating that the water is finally boiling away.

11 Minutes. Here we are eleven minutes in and things are just getting started. I have been stirring nonchalantly to this point. But things are about to change, quickly.

12 Minutes. Another shade darker in just a minute.

13 Minutes. Now, you see the texture change. Once this happens, you know things are cooking quickly and you'd better ignore all external influences, save the house burning down around you.

14 Minutes. In all the previous photos, the spatula is sitting against the pan. In this photo and all subsequent ones, though you cannot see it, I'm stirring. There's been a significant color change in the last few seconds.

15 Minutes. This is as light brown as I would use for a gumbo. If I were making a general purpose roux to store in the cooler for some future use, I'd be stopping right about here. But, today, I'm making alligator and shrimp gumbo, so I want a dark roux.

16 Minutes. This is a good red brown roux. I'd stop here for duck.

17 Minutes. Look at the smoke coming off of this! It's not black yet in this photo, but it was about 30 seconds after I snapped the photo. I was too busy working with it at the last second to take a final picture. To stop it from cooking, I threw a couple of pounds of trinity (onions, peppers, and celery) into it, then hit it with a gallon of stock.

Here's the final product. I wasn't kidding about it going black in a hurry, was I?

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