East Texas, beyond what we call the “pine curtain” is a region of mystery. The Big Thicket even fosters a species of orchid. There is deep shade, darkness at midday, cypress knees protruding from sable pools of still water harboring turtles and alligators. In short, parts of east Texas only differ from Cajun Louisiana by having being west of the Sabine River.
Names like Leblanc, Ledoux, Thibodeaux(ti-bi-doh), and Richard(ree-sharr) are common in these forests. It was a grandson of Cajun cooks who taught me about the methods of Louisiana cuisine. Prominent in this genre is the roux (roo). He explained that there were four sauces in Cajun cooking; bisque, étouffée, jambalaya, and gumbo, each with its own roux. Whether or not this is absolute gospel may be open to question, but here is what he taught me.
To make the roux for bisque, put in a cast iron skillet, at medium heat, one cup ( or so) of flour and an equal amount of lard (or oil), and stir constantly until a creamy emulsion forms and just barely loses the smell of flour. To push it a little further, so that it is the roux for étouffée, continue cooking until the aroma resembles burnt popcorn, same as you would do for sawmill gravy. To produce the roux for jambalaya, keep on stirring and heating until the color is a deep tan, like butterscotch, and of a ropey consistency: “the golden roux.”
The most difficult roux follows, that is, the gumbo roux. If it is not cooked enough, the strong flavor won’t develop. If it is overdone, it will burn. At least 20 minutes of constant stirring brings about a deep chocolate color, which looks like fudge. You know when the gumbo roux is done when somebody walks in the back door and hollers
“hey, somebody’s burning the kitchen down! “