The success of many Cajun and Creole recipes depends upon the proper execution of making a roux (pronouced "roo")! Roux, a French word translated as "reddish brown", is the basis of many traditional Louisiana recipes. It is worth the time to learn how to do this properly. Its directions are deceptively simple. If you burn the roux, Throw It Away, wash the pan, and start over. A burned roux will ruin the taste of the entire dish.
The three main categories of roux are light roux (often referred to as a "blond" roux), dark roux (a deep brown color), and a medium roux (golden brown). Each different color is attained by how long you cook it. You will develop certain preferences for the darkness of the roux and often the recipes will call for a light or dark roux.
Basic Directions For Creating A Roux: In a frying pan (a cast iron skillet works the best), melt 1/2 cup of shortening or use 1/2 cup of cooking oil. For a truly authentic and full bodied flavor, make your roux with fresh bacon grease (on those occasions when arteries don't matter so much!). After melting the shortening or grease, slowly add 1/2 cup of flour. Stir the mixture until it is smooth and creamy and continue cooking and stirring over a medium high heat for five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring to keep from sticking. For a light roux, heat about 10 minutes more; for a darker roux, about 15 minutes. The rich reddish brown color is easily recognizable. If you have pan drippings from a roast or other meat, add it in and keep cooking.
When a recipe calls for making a roux, the 1/2 cup of flour to 1/2 cup of shortening is a good starter for the roux. Oftentimes, though, you will want to make a little more roux and add it to the dish if it is not thickening up as you would wish. The making of the roux and Cajun cooking in general is a "practice makes perfect" art. Recipes are considered by the seasoned Cajun cook to simply be guidelines to orchestrating a highly personalized gastronomic rhapsody.
(c) copyright, Samantha Kaye, "My Dead Daddy's Cajun Recipes", 6/94