You say rice and gravy to a southern boy and you have touched his heart strings, if not his very soul. What ya’ll having for supper tonight, Jerry? Rice and gravy, I’m pretty sure. I can just hear that old crone who was a shill for the cattle industry a number of years ago saying, “Where’s the beef?”

That’s not the point at all. Rice, which was grown by the shipload in southern Louisiana, was the national food of the state – so to speak. It was always on the table. Gravy was never far away. Now there are as many recipes for gravy as there are grains of rice. But for the record, tonight I am speaking of a Cajun gravy called roux. The “x” is silent. It doesn’t come in a package or box – although, these days just about anything can be purchased in a package and mixed up in seconds. Real roux, on the other hand is a staple in every Cajun household and is the base for gumbos, court bouillon – pronounced locally coo-be-yon.

Here’s the basic formula. One heavy bottom pot. One cup olive oil. One cup of flour. The better part of an hour. On moderate to medium low heat stir the above ingredients constantly until the color resembles a chocolate bar. Somewhere between regular and dark. Don’t stop stirring. Not for the phone. Not for the door bell. Not to see who just drove into the driveway – not even to scratch your ass. IT WILL LOOK LIKE IT’S BURNING AND IT WILL IF YOU DO NOT STIR CONSTANTLY!

When the desired color is achieved, put in a small can of tomato paste. Stir this until it settles down – and it will need settling down – and then throw in a chopped onion, half a bell pepper, a stalk or two of celery and flip this around a while. It will be a big lump of mud. Don’t worry. You are not alone. It happens every time.

Now after a few minutes add some liquid. Keep the stirring going. It can be stock, water, a little red wine couldn’t hurt. Add enough to make a thick but not too thick broth. It needs to have the consistency of uncut paint. Season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a little Tabasco. Simmer this a while and then you are ready to add previously browned chicken thighs. If you want to go for seafood then after about 30 minutes add the seafood and cook until done. About 10 or 15 minutes depending on what it is. Oysters. Yum. Catfish. Yum. Shrimp, scallops crabs, duck. It goes on.

There is no evidence that eating this food will cause gross harm to your reputation or sleeplessness.

Of course you serve it over rice.

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