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Cornbread is as essential to life in the South as air and water. Always cooked in a hot cast iron skillet, it is wonderfully crisp on the outside and soft and moist inside. It is key ingredient in Thanksgiving dressing and is delicious smeared with butter or, as my father and I often did, crumbled into a cold glass of milk while the bread is still piping hot! (Seriously, try it sometime).
Tips and Techniques
Steps for: Making a Roux
A roux is simply a mixture of equal parts fat and flour that is browned and used to thicken and flavor a sauce. A roux (French for “reddish brown”) can be browned to any number of levels, from a blondish color for milder sauces to an almost black for certain Creole/Cajun dishes. The darker the roux, the less ability it has to thicken the dish. For our Key West Pink Shrimp Sherry Sauce that we serve over pan-fried fish, we make a roux somewhere between the blonde and peanut butter color. This gives the sauce a nice, nutty flavor and still gives it some thickness.
Step 1: Melt the butter
Add two tablespoons of butter to a saucepan over medium heat and melt, skimming off excess fat that may rise to the top. Cook until just bubbling.
Step 2: Add the flour
Add two tablespoons of flour to the saucepan, whisking thoroughly into the melted butter. Continue whisking while the roux cooks.
Step 3: Watch and smell
The roux should reach the early blonde phase in about five minutes, when it loses its raw flour smell. Continue stirring, reducing heat if it appears that the roux is in danger of burning (if you burn it, it’s over…you must start again. A burnt roux is not salvageable).
Step 4: Finish and stir some more
When the roux has reached a nice, deep tan color, remove from the heat and continue to stir until it has cooled somewhat and is in no danger of burning. You can use right away or refrigerate for a few days and use later.
Note: if using right away, make sure that you have your next ingredients ready before beginning your roux. Add them immediately as soon as the roux is done and continue cooking to prevent the roux from burning.