The Perfect Roux for Jambalaya

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Answered by: Jeffrey, An Expert in the Culinary Basics Category
Every home chef has got their own opinion about what makes a perfect Jambalaya, but I think if you ask any professional chef, she's going to tell y the keystone ingredient is the roux. It's the thickener and the body that binds it all together. Roux makes the soup or sauce complete.

If you're not familiar with the word, and consequently the concept, allow me to present you with an expedient primer on the subject. Roux is defined as a thickener, for soups and sauces, which is comprised of equal parts oil and flour blended together. It may be used raw, or cooked, slowly blended into the simmering liquid until it reaches the desired thickness. The type of oil and flour is entirely up to you. In my home kitchen I usually go with vegetable or olive oil and white flour. For a flavorful and savory jambalaya though, you'll want to use bacon grease, or a combination of bacon grease and butter. If you're really worried about your cholesterol levels, then I would suggest olive oil. If not, go with the bacon/butter combo, and white flour. Your taste buds will thank you later.

When cooked the roux takes one of four forms: white, blonde, brown, and dark, or dark brown. White roux is either raw or just barely cooked; blonde is cooked slightly longer and starts to brown lightly; brown cooks much longer, and dark roux takes the longest to cook. To cook the perfect roux you need a large flat-bottomed saute pan and a wire whip. Heat your pan on medium until hot, then add the oil. Slowly add the flour to the oil, stirring carefully with the wire whip. When the mixture is fully blended, keep stirring until it starts bubbling. Turn the heat down to low, and keep stirring every few minutes. Keep stirring until it achieves the desired hue.

Does that sound simple enough? It is, but it's not at the same time. The concept is simple enough, but it's time and attention that you can't overlook if you want to create a culinary Cajun masterpiece. Most intermediate to seasoned cooks will be familiar with cooking the whole meal at one time, whatever it may be, multi-tasking the various jobs to be done, always keeping in mind the timing of each item on the list. I would suggest first, you get out all of your ingredients and tools, (what the French call, 'mis en place', roughly translated as, everything in its place and ready to go), then get your roux started. Remember, this will be cooked on very low heat, for a very long time, stirring every few minutes so as not to burn. In between stirring you'll be chopping vegetables and meats, then sauteing them, (in a separate pan!), adding spices and sauces and slowly building your flavors. If you time it right, by the time you're ready to add the roux, the rest of the dish is ready too.

When your dark roux is ready, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. If you put it in while it's bubbling hot, it will cause the liquid jambalaya to bubble up violently. Once it cools for a few minutes, slowly add it to the jambalaya stirring until you arrive at the desired thickness. Now let it simmer for up to another hour to let all of the flavors blend together. Serve with your favorite rice and some chipotle-cornbread, and you've got a meal. I hope this was helpful on your quest for the perfect roux for jambalaya. Thanks for reading, JVD

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