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Ask Jan: All About Roux – and a Fine Pork Stew Recipe

September 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Dear Jan:

I have a recipe for pork stew with andouille sausage that calls for a roux, made with equal parts oil and flour. I’ve never made it with oil before. It seems as though it will be soupy – I thought a roux was supposed to be as thick as peanut butter. Will this work?

 — George, via email, in Lantana, Fl.

Roux in the making

Roux in the making

 Jan says:

Though you may be familiar with roux made from butter or a solid shortening, oils and melted fats such as meat drippings also are used.

A roux (it translates to “red” in French, but also means the foodstuff) is a thickening mixture used for many dishes. In the U.S., you find it mostly in Louisiana cooking. It likely originated with the Cajuns – French Canadians from the Northeast. Long used to make New Orleans’ classic dishes — etoufee and other rich stews and one-pot meals — it’s typically mentioned as either a “brown” or “red”  roux or a “blond” roux. The difference is not in ingredients, but in how long the roux is cooked – and what color the roux is when you take it off the fire.

A roux is made with only two ingredients — flour and fat. That mixture is cooked, then added to other ingredients. Typically, a  liquid is added to form a “sauce” that will hold up the other foods in the dish. The result is a richly flavored sauce or gravy that surrounds meats, seafoods or vegetables — or all three.

Making a roux – 101

You begin with equal parts fat and flour. In your recipe, oil comes first. Always use a heavy-bottomed pot — if I’m not using my cast-iron skillet, I’m using a Le Creuset cast-iron Dutch oven – two of the most used and useful pans in my kitchen. Even heating is essential in cooking a roux — it will burn very easily, so those thick-bottomed cast-iron pans are crucial. (I’m rabid about this: See my advice on pan-handling at the end of this article.)

Heat the fat, and stir in the flour. Cook over medium heat till the fat absorbs the flour and it becomes the texture of thin peanut butter. Continue cooking, stirring constantly to prevent burning – lower the heat if you get a feeling it’s burning. Even for a blond roux, one that’s the color of wet beach sand, it needs to cook a half hour or so. Darker “red” roux can take up to an hour. Do not try to rush this — the roux will taste pasty or will burn and you want neither.

Ban water

Prudhomme

Prudhomme

Paul Prudhomme, the chef that popularized New Orleans cooking in the ’80s, taught me a few of the most important things I know about cooking. One of those applies to the roux: If a recipe calls for water to thin it, substitute a liquid with flavor instead. Water adds nothing to a recipe except liquid. So after this tip, I never once used water to thin a roux — I use stock, wine, juices — whatever will complement the flavors in your finished dish.

In your recipe, George, a chicken stock is called for.

Stir and cook with patience

So slowly add the stock — at room temperature (another Prudhomme tip — most ingredients should be room temp when you cook with them – never directly out of the refrigerator). Stir in the liquid with a whisk, and don’t stop until the roux is smooth. Bring up the fire slightly to just simmer the roux and cook, for another 10 or so minutes, adding stock as needed to get the right consistency – it thickens as it continues to cook, so err on the side of making it too thin. Season it and cook a few minutes more to allow the roux to absorb the seasoning. Continue with the recipe after that.

For those interested, here’s George’s story about the pork stew, and the recipe that he credits to Bruce Aidell — another fine writer whose cookbooks should be in all libraries.

Creole-style pork stew

  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups chopped onions (about 1 large onion)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 links andouille smoked sausage, chopped (about 1 pound, 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons minced or chopped garlic (about 4 large cloves)
  • 4 cups chicken stock or 1 carton (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne), depending on personal taste
  • 2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Hot pepper sauce or white vinegar
  • 4 cups cooked long-grain white rice

Make a roux by heating oil in a large, heavy pot over low heat. Stir in flour; cook and stir over low heat until mixture turns a rich red-brown color (about 20 to 25 minutes). Remove from heat; carefully stir in onion, celery, bell pepper and about 1 cup chopped sausage.

Return pot to heat; cook and stir 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir in garlic, chicken stock or broth and tomato paste. Add Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, sage, oregano and cayenne pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Add pork pieces and reduce heat to simmer; cook uncovered for about 1 -1/2 hours or until pork is tender. Stir in remaining chopped sausage; cook 5 minutes more to heat through. (At this stage, if you do not want to serve right away, stew may be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

 Discard bay leaves and skim any visible fat, if desired. Add salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste. To serve, spoon 1/2 cup rice into shallow soup bowls; ladle some of pork mixture over top. Add more hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Serves 8.

Variation: Add 1 pound okra cut into 1/2-inch pieces during the last 20 minutes of cooking time.

Note: This recipe was developed by Chef Bruce Aidells, author of Bruce Aidells’s Complete Book of Pork: A Guide to Buying, Storing, and Cooking the World’s Favorite Meat. I recommend all his meat cookbooks.

* * *

Jan talks pan-handling:

 Thin pots and pans can be bought for very few bucks, and there’s a reason: they will warp. A warped pot is nothing but more work for you, the cook, trying to cook food evenly under impossible conditions. Even some of the best stainless steel or copper-clad cookware will warp if you mistreat it.

 Take care of your pots and pans.

The rules:

  • Cook on the lowest heat your food will take.
  • Never heat a pan without something in it.
  • Never leave a pot on a burner to burn dry.
  • Move pans off a hot burner once you’re finished cooking.
  • Never, EVER put cold water in a hot pan! Most will warp without fail if you do; let it cool before adding water or rinsing.
  • If you really care for your cookware, you won’t let idiots use it, either.
  • Finally, spend the extra money to buy quality pots that will last you a lifetime.

 

Tags: Ask Jan · Recipes: What's Cooking!

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 George P // Sep 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    That’s one of my favorite recipes. The biggest hassle is the time it takes to make the roux, often double the time listed in the recipe. I grab a stool, a book and a glass of iced tea and sit at the stove stirring the roux until it’s the right color.

    Pubix has andouille. I’ve never found it at Winn-Dixie. The spice in it makes it a key ingredient, so try not to use other sausages.

  • 2 Book cook fine old recipe southern - Cook book - Recipes cookbook // Jan 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    […] Ask Jan: All About Roux – and a Fine Pork Stew Recipe 14 Sep 2009. Season it and cook a few minutes more to allow the roux to absorb the seasoning.. I grab a stool, a book and a glass of iced tea and sit at the stove. Cheney Brothers – Delivering Southern Hospitality Since 1925 – The Food. Michael's Genuine Onion Dip – Time to Throw Out Your Old Recipe9.16 Ask Jan: All About Roux – and a Fine Pork Stew Recipe […]

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