Further kitchen experiments

Tonight I made jambalaya.

I started with some really nice Vermont butter and flour to make a roux. Then I added the holy trinity of onions, bell peppers and celery, followed by tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black pepper, rice, water, and andouille sausage (sorry Cari, it’s not vegetarian) and let it simmer.

The verdict? Epic fail.

The aroma is right on. When the trinity hit the roux, oh my – I love that smell. That smell could be methadone for all those cooks out there who have been huffing bay leaves. It’s just wonderful.

The taste is good – very good. The smokiness of the andouille is permeating the dish, and the toasted flour from the roux is giving it this great savory tone and it’s just delicious.

The texture feels like some kind of horrible accident involving milled wheat and a personal lubricant. I completely screwed up the roux. It hasn’t separated exactly, but what should be a nice velvety thick body to the dish is instead this mealy slickness. It’s not bad enough to render the batch inedible. This is going to provide lunch for the next week. But there’s no way I’m going to serve this to anyone else (unless they really piss me off).

Anyone got good tips on making a proper roux? I lack experience here.

Yes, I know – there’s no roux in jambalaya. I wasn’t working off a recipe here, and the term ‘jambalaya’ isn’t technically correct to describe what I was making. I’m not sure what else to call this stuff.

19 Responses to “Further kitchen experiments”

  1. Cari Says:

    It’s okay, dear. I came to terms with your meat-eating ways long ago.


  2. Adrienne Says:

    I’ve never made jambalaya before, but I add the roux in last as a thickening agent to whatever I want to be thickened. Also, did you use water or milk in the roux? That can affect flavor and texture.

    Don’t give up!

  3. Plum Texan Says:

    I don’t have much *roux* experience, but I do have *slurry* experience (which is, of course, half of a roux before it’s cooked). I agree with Adrienne that you might do better to add it in closer to the end.

    Your description of the “horrible accident” gave me the first LOL of the day, though. 😉

  4. Peg of Tilling Says:

    Maybe your really nice Vermont butter has a higher fat content than regular butter and that made the roux go weird?

  5. nicole Says:

    Well, how did you make the roux? And when did it separate? I’m guessing it was the tomatoes, they are acidic and acid can cause things to start separating or “falling out”… But I’m really not sure. You might have added the liquid too quickly or not stirred enough for the roux to dissolve properly.

    When I make roux I usually use a tablespoon (flatware not measuring) of butter and the same amount of flour. I let the butter get nice and hot but not too hot, then add the flour, it kind of foams up when added, then I whisk with a wire whisk until it’s the color I need it to be. A kind of golden/blond color for “white sauce” or darker for, well, darker sauces… You need to let the flour cook long enough so it smells a bit like toasted bread, or it will weird.
    Then I add my liquid, a little at first, stirring vigorously so no lumps form, maybe half a cup at first (be careful, it’ll steam and it’ll get kinda hard to stir and if you don’t add more liquid quickly you’ll have one big lump that won’t readily dissolve again) then another half cup, still stirring really vigorously, and another until it’s not like play-doh any more but like a very thick paste, then I add more liquid at a time until I have the consistency I want.

  6. Sarah Says:

    What kind of flour were you using? Maybe you should try a sauce flour for a finer texture.

  7. Christine Says:

    You need to cultivate a friendship with someone from Louisiana…

  8. Earlene Says:

    This is a link to the article in our local (Tacoma, WA) newspaper today.


    In the recipes for jambalaya there’s no mention of roux.

  9. Lisa Says:

    There normally isn’t a roux in jambalaya. I think your recipe is bogus.

  10. southern belle Says:

    Hi there,

    Earlene is right. Jambalaya doesn’t have roux, Gumbo does. The others are also correct about the method of adding liquid etc being a factor. I would recommend the Dooky Chase Cookbook, or the classic Chef Paul Prudhommes Louisiana Kitchen. Good luck!!

  11. martha in mobile Says:

    You were making gumbo. The gumbo took offense at being called jambalaya, and wasn’t too thrilled with the whole tomato thing, either. The best gumbo recipe is in Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking. It also includes the best pecan pie recipe and the best Hoppin’ John recipe. But as a consolation, you should know that if you make gumbo correctly (with a roux so brown it looks like chocolate), your entire house will smell like gumbo for days. Which can be a little tiresome.

  12. Elizabeth in VT Says:

    Roux is a thickener more than it is a flavor base. As Nicole said, you generally start with equal amounts of flour and butter, but there is only so much liquid you can add before you’ve passed the roux’s ability to thicken it. If you started out with a 1/1 roux and added 3 cups of liquid (tomatos, tomato paste and water for rice make a fair amount of liquid), you will indeed have soup.

    I think the tomato paste is the culprit, or (dare I say it) the sausage, which is going to add fat (slickness) to your dish. Good problem-solving means changing only one thing at a time, and maybe you don’t want to keep making a dish with such disaster potential, but I’d first try adding the tomato paste LAST. If that doesn’t solve it, then I’d prick the sausage all over, brown it separately, drain the fat, and add the sausage it near the end so it will finish cooking without greasing up the rice or the other ingredients.

    My mother’s family made jambalaya with shrimp and ham.

  13. Sandy Says:

    Here is the recipe for jambalaya that was served at every Mardi Gras party I ever went to in New Orleans. This is for a double recipe and will serve a lot of people.

    This is for a double batch:

    4 cups of Uncle Ben’s Rice in the box, it has to say parboiled on the box
    1 stick of margarine or butter cut into pieces
    1 bunch of green onions chopped
    2 small cans of tomato sauce
    2 cans of Campbell’s French Onion soup
    2 cans of Campbell’s Beef Broth
    chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)- cut into small pieces
    smoked sausage link – cut into small pieces (optional)
    2 bay leaves
    1TBL thyme
    1-2 tsp pepper

    This needs to be baked covered. I use a large roasting pan with a tight lid. Use chicken alone or chicken & sausage or sausage only, whatever strikes your fancy. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes; stir and then cover again and bake another approximatley 30 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

  14. picadrienne Says:

    If you want to thicken, and add a nice ‘mouth feel’ to a soup try using the REALLY cheap mashed potato flakes. Yeah, the ones that could never be mistaken for an actual mashed potato. They work great for thickening, and cutting a too salty flavor. And, if you make a huge batch of soup, it freezes pretty well.

  15. Michele Says:

    I learned from my grandmother (many moons ago) the best way to make a roux for the “roux challenged” is to use “Wondra” flour. It is a very smooth, finely ground flour. It works miracles! Also, I wisk the heck out of my roux (no forks, PLEASE no forks). Last, but not least, if your roux is lumpy whatever you do, DO NOT, put it in your dish. Throw it out and start a new batch. Lumpy roux makes lumpy sauce.

    P.S. Just so you know that I am not completely talking out of my *(@*&, my grandmother was a home economics teacher for over 20 years. Believe me, when she taught, I listened and listened well. Okay, maybe the listening part isn’t true, but I definitely learned!

  16. Kate Says:

    You can call it Etouffee if you made a walnut roux. What color was the roux when you ‘stopped’ it?

    Sounds like you made a nice try of it though! Pirates Pantry has a good jambalaya recipe should you want one 😉

    Keep it up!

  17. Juliann Says:

    Roux is a basic for many dishes-including a great mac ‘n cheese, rice and broccoli casserole, and for just making good gravy for biscuits. It may take a little practise, but I never, ever use box mac ‘n cheese like my friends. When you are cooking, whatever you cook is your own design. Just like any other skill, it takes practise and the will to try new things.

  18. CajuninExile Says:

    If the taste and smell are correct, it probably wasn’t your roux. I do wonder if the mealy texture you’re referring to is undercooked rice? I use roux in my jambalaya, and I add it in the middle of the cooking process. And I get my roux from a jar. Every year I go back to south Louisiana and get several jars of Savoie’s roux, enough to get me through the winter. Good luck and keep trying!

  19. virginia Says:

    It breaks all the rules but it works! I never weigh – but just over half a pint of milk in saucepan – about half table spoon flour – half table spoon marg.
    Add all to saucepan cold, put on stove, gentle heat and use a whisk – do not leave, stay with it, keep whisking, and it will turn into a white sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. I add cheese. Remember all in one cold whisk over low heat. From UK.