“First you make a roux.” Not only is it the most basic element of Cajun cuisine, it’s also very simple and not nearly as intimidating as many people think it is.
It’s what gives so many of our dishes their unique flavor.
In addition to oil and flour, a Cajun roux always has onions, garlic, black pepper. Everything else is optional, according to taste and region. But it at least will always have those 5 ingredients.
In SW Louisiana, expect a roux to be very simple, with the addition of some cayenne pepper, probably green onions, maybe some bell pepper, and celery about half the time.
In SE Louisiana, as you get closer to New Orleans, you start finding bay leaves and other dry herbs like thyme, basil, oregano. There’ll almost always be tomato added, usually tomato sauce or puree.
But no matter where you are, whoever the cook is, they will insist that the way THEY make it is the right way. Anything else just isn’t authentic.
Chicken stew is a cousin to gumbo. The main difference, I suppose, is that a stew is thick like a gravy, whereas gumbo is more like a soup.
Cajun Chicken Stew
And here’s the ingredient list for the way I make it (which, by the way, is authentic):
3T. peanut oil
2c. finely chopped onions
1/3c. finely chopped poblano (or green bell pepper)
3T. chopped garlic
1/2t. black pepper
1/4t. cayenne flakes (make it 1t for spicy)
1/2t. dried thyme
1 cube chicken bouillon (I use Knorr’s)
1/2t. black pepper (again at the end)
1/2c. green onions, chopped fine (at the end)
– If you have bacon fat on hand, use that. Just make sure it’s clear.
– Do all your mise en place (preps) BEFORE you start the roux. If when your roux is the right color, you suddenly realize you haven’t prepared your vegetables, you’re in trouble!
– There are lots of recipes out there for roux done in the oven, roux made without oil. I have no advice on that because I’ve never had a reason to try it.
– Don’t let the onions sit in the hot roux for more than a couple minutes or they will caramelize and may over-brown and make your gravy bitter.
– It’s better to use dried herbs in this case. Dried herbs are better for longer cooking, fresh are usually added at the end.
– Adapt this recipe to New Orleans style by adding 1/2c. tomato sauce or puree, 2 bay leaves, and 1/4t oregano. Add all this right after the onions.
– This recipe works great with shrimp or crawfish. But you’ll need to reduce the gravy for about 20 minutes BEFORE adding the shrimp. Shrimp are done as soon as they turn pink.
– Shrimp have a habit of lightening a roux and releasing a lot of water if they overcook. So take that into account and adjust accordingly.
– Try adding a good smoked sausage. Nothing wrong with that!
So, how does YOUR mama make a chicken stew?
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