So tonight's episode of "Good Eats" made me mad. God bless Alton Brown, because he is a seriously good cooking show host, and I normally love his no-nonsense style, but seriously?
The episode starts like this: after burning one roux and ruining a dozen others by various methods, Alton comes up with a brilliant idea -- let's eliminate the direct heat source altogether and instead make the roux... in the oven!
Sigh. Fine, look, if you want to make Cajun food but are the kind of person who burns boxed mac and cheese, by all means make your roux in the oven. But if you have even the most basic of cooking skills and a modicum of patience, you will be richly rewarded with a beautiful dark roux (and the resulting indescribably rich and complex gravies and gumbos) by implementing the fine art of stirring.
Last school year, I made a shrimp etouffee that got the stamp of approval from an honest-to-goodness Cajun, on my first try. It's seriously not hard AT ALL. There's this whole mystique around Cajun food that makes people think it would be foolish even to attempt, but y'all, it's peasant food at its finest, born from necessity and tradition. It's darn delicious and Cajun mamas can for sure make it in their sleep better than I can, but it's SIMPLE STUFF. Really.
All you have to do is put equal parts flour and oil in a pan over medium heat, and stir the dickens out of it for about 25 minutes until it's a bit darker than peanut butter. Go ahead and do all the standing yoga positions you can think of while you stir. It ain't rocket science. Then you add 2 parts minced onion and 1 part each minced celery and green bell pepper, salt and pepper that business, stir it for another, oh, five minutes or so, throw in some crushed garlic and a can or two of crushed tomatoes (dodge the spatters!), a bay leaf, and a few shakes of hot sauce, give that a stir, cook it until the veggies are soft, and toss in some raw, peeled shrimp. Switch off the heat, stir until the shrimp are just cooked, and then serve it over hot rice. Could it get easier? Maybe, but you'd have to buy your roux in a jar.
Anyway, Alton's overcomplications aside, go on ahead and make you some Cajun food this weekend, why don't you? It's goooood.
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