You may notice throughout the book that the soups and sauces are seldom thickened with flour. There is nothing wrong with flour as a thickener if it is cooked properly before it is added. The easiest way to make roux is to put equal parts of flour and fat in a sheet pan and bake at 350° until the desired color is achieved, stirring the mixture every 10 or 15 minutes so that it does not scorch. I use equal parts of rendered duck fat and rendered bacon or pork fat for an intriguing flavor, cooking the roux until it is a rich mahogany color. I remove some from the pan and allow the rest to reach an intense chocolate color. The darker roux goes into seafood gumbos. I freeze it in ½-cup quantities in plastic containers.

Okra is the thickener in my seafood gumbos, and the roux simply provides a rich background to the delicate flavors of the shellfish. Ruth Bronz explains in Miss Ruby’s American Cooking that roux cooked until it is dark brown loses its thickening ability as the flour is broken down. The roux is added for flavor. According to my mother, the roux also coats the vegetables so that they float and so that you can taste each of them separately.