by Doctor Science
The other day Sprog the Younger was reading a story in which a character -- a rather manly kind of man -- was trying to bake a cake, despite having no prior experience. She LOLed, and then thanked me for teaching her these critical life skills, so that she, at least, knows how to read a recipe, and how to bake a cake.
I opined that baking a cake (from scratch, no mix involved) is actually a medium-level cookery skill, because you usually have to separate eggs -- and my observation is that separating eggs is a great divider between the "can actually cook" and the "can cook a couple of things" groups.
Both the girls scoffed at the notion -- but then, both of them can cook enough to feed themselves, though only The Younger does it for fun. She loves reading recipes on the internet, because the comments are where you really learn what cooking is about: "This recipe is great! I loved it and will make it again! ... I changed everything." It will *really* cure you of slavishly following every detail of a recipe, and make you much less nervous about my husband's most-hated cooking instruction: "Adjust seasonings." Ri-i-i-ight. I shall now make it *less salty*. Thanks a lot, cookbook.
Anyway, I said that separating eggs is one of the points where you level up as you learn to cook, because a) it takes a little practice, and b) once you can do it, there's a whole new set or level of recipes you can try.
Younger said, "I can bake fairly well but I can't COOK, you can tell because I don't know how to make a roux" -- speaking of another leveling-up skill. I promised I would teach her to make a light one, such as I use for gravy or white sauce, but I've never really tried making a full-scale Cajun roux. As I told Younger, it seem to be the pan equivalent of roasting a marshmallow until it's a perfectly even light brown all over -- and my approach to marshmallows often devolves to Flame On!
But there's also the fact that no two Cajun chefs agree on how to make it. Some say: 1:1 ratio of flour:fat by volume, some by weight, while others say a 60:40 ratio. Some say the pan must be very hot, some say no more than medium-low. Some say you can use canola oil, others (more sensible IMHO) say never!. What they all agree is that you have to keep stirring and not take your eye off it until it's the desired color -- which for a very dark roux might be 40 minutes or more.
To heck with that, says I. Now that I see there's such a thing as microwave roux, that's what we're going to try.