I once wrote you can’t save a burned roux. I was wrong. If you are desperate enough, you can save it.
Two days ago Son Number Three was running a fever of 102.4. In and out of delirium, he asked for seafood gumbo. If a sick person asks me for gumbo, I start cooking. My grandmother taught me that.
I tried a new roux recipe with a ratio of 1:1 baked in the oven. The directions call for cooking the flour and oil one hour at 400 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. At the 45th minute, I caught a whiff of burned flour. Refusing to believe I had scorched the roux, I cooked it seven more minutes, then pulled it out of the oven. The smell had dissipated. And behold, it was the darkest roux I’d ever made. Finally, I’d made it to the dark side of roux without burning it. Or so I thought.
I sautéd, then added the Holy Trinity – celery, onion, bell pepper — 3:2:1. Next I added shrimp stock and spices, then simmered for an hour before I took a taste. And it was bitter — and burned.
I was out of vegetables, had $50 worth of shrimp and crab to add, and a sick son who wanted gumbo.
It couldn’t get any worse, so I was determined to save this gumbo.
One at a time I added a handful of sugar, three squirts of ketchup, a 1/2 cup flour cooked
down with a half-package of roux mix, more basil, one can of chicken broth, a ¼ cup of tomato soup concentrate. Feeling more courageous, I added the $17.50 lump crab meat for more sweetness. I was now committed to saving it. More Worcestershire sauce and finally two globing tablespoons of tomato paste. Simmer 45 more minutes. The experiments failed individually, but collectively they produced a marvelous, thick gumbo.
I served it in gumbo bowls, topped with China Doll rice and little green onions.
Son #3 ate it for supper and now he’s eating it for breakfast. I’ll never be able to duplicate one of the best pots of seafood gumbo I’ve ever made. But that’s okay —I just needed one miraculous gumbo cure.