With a little over a week until Christmas day, the empty spaces on my Christmas list are filling in as quickly as those in my calendar. I love the way things pick up this time of year and generally enjoy the task of finding the perfect present, though I really could do with a few more good ideas for secondary gifts to round things out. What’s your holiday season looking like?
All shopping and party stress aside, I know a lot of you are looking forward to Christmas dinner, perhaps one featuring roast turkey. Me? I can barely be bothered to cook one for Thanksgiving most years, though I relented a few weeks ago when my father-in-law ordered a gorgeous 20-pound organic turkey for the occasion. So I bent my rules, cooked the bird (breast-side down and the day before), and invited extra friends to our Thanksgiving feast. We didn’t have the house-busting crowds I remember from my childhood, but this band of strays had a terrific time. Here we are late in the day after too much food and many bottles of wine, still in place at the table, laughing over who remembers what:
But even with eight people — several of whom took home leftovers, mind you — that was a lot of bird. Gumbo to the rescue!
As ever, I took Michael Ruhlman’s advice for making stock and broke up the turkey carcass in a large stockpot, covered the bones with water and a little cider vinegar, and let it sit in a 200°F oven, this time for about 25 hours. That’s much longer than I typically let it go, but I was rewarded with the most flavorful batch of broth I’ve made yet, so I think there’s little danger of overcooking it.
But with the wealth of great gumbo recipes available — Donald Link’s Fried Chicken Gumbo is the perfect place to start — the rest of this post is less about the specifics of making a gumbo than the benefits of starting one with a gluten-free roux. So many Cajun and Creole dishes are roux-based that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re trying to convert one for someone who can’t eat wheat, but I’m here to tell you it’s an easy thing to do!
Whether you’re on board with a gluten-free diet, think it’s overblown or just don’t play attention to it at all, there are actually several reasons you might prefer making gluten-free roux for your gumbo:
It’s a great way to use bean flours or blends you don’t much care for.
If you’re anything like me, you have a few odds and ends of these flours in the fridge that you bought in a burst of enthusiasm only to discover they make breads taste weirdly, well, beany.
It’s an economical use of alternative flours that can be pretty expensive to buy.
The longer you cook a traditional roux, the darker it becomes and the less it ultimately thickens. While I haven’t tried every last GF flour available to me, I can say that the more common ones — garbanzo bean flour, sorghum flour and many baking mixes — don’t behave the same way. In fact, if you swap GF out in equal measure for AP flour, you’ll end up with a much thicker end product than you imagined. For this reason, I like to use half the amount of oil and flour called for in any given recipe.
It cooks faster.
SO MUCH faster. In the gumbo link above, you’ll be standing in front of a hot stove constantly stirring that roux for nearly an hour. Even if you have multiple beers for companionship, that’s a long time. But GF flours brown to a nice peanut butter/milk chocolate shade in about 10 minutes, which barely gives you time to remember the beer, much less get through the better part of a six-pack. (At least if you’re like me.)
Best of all, there’s no sacrifice on the flavor-front.
With all that said, maybe you prefer tradition and have no need to part with your standard roux. Well, there’s another thing you can do to enter roux heaven: play with your fat. Not a Homer Simpson situation, but just start your roux with something more interesting than olive or canola oil. I keep jars of bacon grease and schmaltz in the fridge and love to work them into meals to amp up the flavor. So if you’re making a turkey gumbo and have some of the seasoned fat left from roasting, try using it in the roux. Building flavor from the bottom-up is a sure way to make any meal (but especially one of converted leftovers) memorable.
Some people recommend you cook the roux in a cast iron skillet with a whisk to keep from splashing yourself, but I like to do everything in one pot because I’m
a rebel who loves to take risks lazy and hate washing dishes. A large pot and flat-bottomed wooden spoon work really well as long as you’re careful. Seriously, DO NOT splash yourself with hot roux. They don’t call it “Cajun napalm” for nothing.
I hope you found this post helpful! As long as you follow my tips for adjusting the ratio of roux to gumbo and don’t splash yourself (or burn the roux), you’re golden! Tell me, what’s your favorite dish made with gluten-free roux?