I planted okra this year. I had no idea how to grow okra, but apparently it's pretty easy. The three plants I put in have taken over my garden and are now bigger than I am. I can usually harvest two or three a day, and by the end of the week I've got enough to do something with. This weekend I decided that the something would be gumbo.
I've never made gumbo before. Because I've been terrified of making a roux. There's always been this mystique surrounding making a roux. As if there's some sort of secret voodoo necessary to keep it from burning or exploding or setting my kitchen on fire or something. Even my Food Network Idol, Mr. Alton Brown, is less than reassuring about making a roux. In his gumbo episode, he fills his kitchen with dutch ovens covered in roux-turned-charcoal. If he lacks the required finesse, what hope do I have?
I gave it a shot anyway. I figured if I couldn't get it to work in the first 10 tries, I'd run back to the grocery store to get one of those pre-made jars of roux. I held my breath as I sprinkled the flour into the oil and started stirring. And then the magic happened. The flour went from white to blond to brown and my kitchen was filled with this wonderful toasty, nutty smell. And it didn't burn. It didn't explode and it didn't catch my kitchen on fire. I don't know if it's in my blood or if I'm unaware of my own secret voodoo, but there it was... my very first roux. And it was perfect. After I took it off the heat, I very nearly started calling all of my family and friends to tell them the good news. I still might send out announcement cards. ("It's a roux!")
After that point, the gumbo was fairly standard. Celery, onion, bell pepper, okra, tomato, sausage and chicken. But it tastes pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Thanks to my roux.