Category Archives: Cooking

Fixing a broken roux for gumbo

The dreaded broken roux … It’s when something goes wrong in cooking gumbo, and instead of a luscious, uniform, thick roux, you end up with a separated sauce that seems to have tiny globules of flour floating around in oil. It’s totally gross, and it’s a classic broken roux. (Some would call it a separated roux.)

I used to have lots of problems with broken roux (roux’s?). I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong … I wondered if I was adding the water (some people add stock) at the wrong temperature. One article I read advised a lukewarm stock … I fiddled with that for awhile and couldn’t come up with anything like consistent results. Finally, I read somewhere that it was a myth that you should add EQUAL parts of fat and flour to make a roux. This advice said you should add more flour than fat, by anywhere from a third to a half more flour, to avoid the dreaded broken roux. I started doing this, and lo and behold, I haven’t had a broken roux since. Coincidence? Perhaps. There is art and mystery in the cooking of the gumbo.

Another important question: Is there a fix for a roux once its broken? I only found one fix for a separated roux, which is taking pre-made cold roux from “roux in a jar” (which I don’t normally use) and mixing it into the gumbo with the broken roux, and then bringing the whole thing to a boil for a few minutes. (I like Savoie’s Old Fashioned Dark Roux). I have a hunch this isn’t so much about fixing the broken roux and it is masking the broken roux. But we do what we must in such cases … And if you don’t have roux in a jar on hand, I have no other solution to offer. Sorry!

 

New Orleans-style carrot cake

My Louisiana grandmother would make a delicious carrot cake for our birthdays that I’ve come to think of as the quintessential New Orleans-style carrot cake. Its distinguishing features: 

  • No raisins;
  • Square cake;
  • Chopped pecans mixed into the cream cheese frosting.

The ingredients of the frosting are cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar and pecans. That’s it!

Here’s a photo of this cake, which is very dear to my heart. 

Mason jar salad

I’ve been on a mason jar salad kick and this is my best-looking one yet. Tomatoes, shallots, mushrooms, ginger dressing, pasta, salmon and salad. 

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Irish-American Soda Bread

Irish bread

The approach of March 17 means baking season for Irish bread. This is an Irish-American version with raisins and carraway.

Managing my back issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine

I am a Cook’s Illustrated fanatic. That is not too strong of a word to express my devotion to that magazine. My grandmother was a wonderful cook, but for whatever reason, she didn’t pass down her skills to me. In her defense, I never asked. So I feel like Cook’s Illustrated taught me how to cook.

One of their many tag lines is, “Recipes that work.” And CI recipes really do work. If you follow the instructions exactly, the food is excellent. And after many years of following CI recipes to the letter, I finally learned my own technique. Little things, like how hot the pan has to be to put a good sear on a piece of meat. How to roast vegetables. When to pull the cookies out of the oven at the perfect moment.

After more than 10 years of Cook Illustrated issues arriving in the mailbox every other month, though, I do believe they have offered recipes for everything I’m in interested in cooking. Frankly, I noticed this for the first time about two years ago, but I was in denial. Now I’m admitting grudgingly that the heyday of Angie and Cook’s Illustrated is coming to its natural end. And frankly, I’m tired of keeping dozens of raggedy back issues organized in my kitchen’s limited space.

Fortunately for me, I have options — many options. What makes Cook’s Illustrated special has no ads, and this is a good thing. But it also means they’re always packaging and re-packaging their content, to sell it again and again. Thus the Cook’s Illustrated spin-offs of Cook’s Illustrated Online, America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country and The Best Recipe Cookbooks.

I’ve had a subscription to the website for sometime now, and it’s always been handy. It’s an instant index to the paper issues, for one. And sometimes I would decide at work to cook a certain recipe that night; it was wonderful to be able to log on and see the ingredients so I could stop at the store on the way home.

So here’s my plan to reorganize my own personal library of Cook’s Illustrated received wisdom: I’ve bought two giant CI cookbooks, The New Best Recipe (updated edition) and More Best Recipes. I’m storing my hard copy back issues in anticipation of recycling them at a future date. I will keep the website subscription. (And to be honest, I’m thinking of getting the iPad subscription to the magazine, too.)

Why this long, rambling post about all this? I think my relationship with Cook’s Illustrated is a case study in information management.

What I’m finding in this case is that sometimes more information isn’t better. It’s just more. I’m trying to find a way to get less information, but information that is more relevant to me and better organized. Sixty magazines are hard to keep organized. Two cookbooks are easy.