When I drive through Starbucks, I dig through the loose change in my car. Using the coins in the ashtray eases my conscience over the cost of coffee, and the baristas don’t mind the pennies. But when I count them out, I often think of gumbo because every penny is a different shade of copper. Pennies cause a real problem for someone like me who makes gumbo from a recipe — most recipes say “cook the roux until it’s the color of a penny.”
Some instructions get a little more detailed like reddish like a copper-penny, but most just say cook the roux until it’s the color of an old penny. My Starbucks pennies are so old they have touches of green and grey.
And as much gumbo as I’ve made, I still patiently stir and ponder: Is the roux the right color? For seafood gumbo the roux needs to be darker, like a mahogany or a dark brown, while for chicken and sausage, the roux needs to be blonde or a pale golden – or so the cookbooks say.
For decades I’ve been trying to make a roux like my mother‘s recipe. She says make it the color of light brown and dark brown mixed with a little coffee grounds thrown in. Only an artist could describe it in those words.
I think my problem is solved and it only cost me pennies on the dollar. One of my best garage sale finds is my Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen cookbook. In it, he includes four beautiful photos of the key colors of roux along with a great explanation of each. Thanks, Chef Paul. Your words are worth millions more than the loose change I handed over at someone’s yard sale for your book.