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Etoufee turns to soup

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
We put crawfish etoufee on the menu recently. Our recipe turned out fine but the roux 'broke' and the etoufee became soupy on the steam table. Temperature was 165. We tried a new etoufee recipe with lots of veggies, more roux (brown-margarine) and tomato paste. Result was the same. Etoufee thickens upon cooling.

Any ideas on how to fix?? We are holding cold and heating to order now.

post #2 of 16
SaltyChef, 3 things.

1. The salt might be drawing water from the veggies as it sits.

2. How dark is your roux? Brown/Black roux, because of the dextrinization of the starches, has very little thickening power when compared to it's blonder cousins. It's primary purpose is to provide flavor/color as opposed to thickening. The darker the roux the less thickening ability it has.

3. Could you post your recipe? It might help us to figure out what's going on.

Also, you might want to take a look at this thread that covers a very similar subject.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

How I made it

Being the first day of new menu without a printed menu, I proceeded similar to this:

About 1.5 gallons of onion/pepper/celery medium dice
3 pounds margarine with equivalent AP flour - light brown roux
About 3/12 gallons of chicken stock
5 pounds crawfish tails with liquid
bay leaves/thyme/about 1/2 cup cajun seasoning
Half a quart of cream

cooked roux (light brown), added veggies sauteed about 5 min, added stock, then tails and seasonings. Simmered about 10 minutes added cream. Consistency was lightly thickened, like a sauce - I figured it would thicken as it sat on steam table.

Would it be worthwile to use two rouxs?? Use blond roux to thicken and add darker one (less quntity) for color/flavor?

post #4 of 16

I'll still reiterate my weeping veggie theory, especially now that I know the veggies are getting only a 5 minute saute and a 10 minute simmer. The less you cook a veggie, the more water the cellular membrane retains. Over time, salt will break these membranes down further and release this liquid. I think your add more roux/more veggies workaround failed due to the extra veggies (extra water). I would go with the extra roux workaround without the extra veggies. Especially if the roux is light brown as you describe. A light brown roux has plenty of thickening capabilities. You also might saute the veggies a little more to drive off some more of their water.

That's one theory.

The other possibility is that the cream is curdling on you. It hasn't happened much but I have had salt curdle cream that wasn't that fresh. In this regard, I'd make sure you use the freshest cream possible.

As far as going the two roux route, I don't think that's necessary. As I said, a light brown roux has plenty of thickening and should give you more than enough flavor for this type of dish.

May I ask why the use of margarine? Is it financial?
post #5 of 16
If you are holding at 165, your roux is breaking... it has lost its ability to coagulate and provide stability. Have you tried holding it at a lower temperature? The FDA minimum is 140, so have you tried hold it at, say, 150 and adding a bit more fire 'to order?'

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post #6 of 16
I agree with Jim, I think he pretty much hit the nail on the head for an answer. I also am a little confused by the use of cream in an etouffee. I haven't done them in years, but I didn't think they had cream in them. Could be my bad.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #7 of 16
I've never seen a roux based sauce 'break' due to prolonged holding at high temps. In fact, it's just the opposite. They thicken as water evaporates. Wheat starch, in my experience, doesn't degrade in this manner.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Why the Margarine

I personnaly prefer not to cook with trans-fats; butter would be the better choice. Financial reasons have nothing to do with it - I have seen so many people use margarine I just went along with it. Our steam table is kinda old - we use third pans with water for every pan - essentially making bain maries for everything! I'll try sauteing the veggies to drive off water.

Thanks again y'all
post #9 of 16
on the contrary, I've had them break many times when held too hot. They just "lose" the fat of choice. Anything from a veloute cream of XXXX soup to a roux based sauce(brown, bechamel, take your pick) . It's an easy fix though-provided it's not scorched-and holding on a table it shouldn't be. Take off the heat and add some cool water, stock, etc whisking it back in to reincorporate. Ain't a biggy-you can see when they're going(or should be able to;) N.E. clam chowder would be a prime example.

Hold in a bain marie and it should alleviate your problems. a couple of 2g round bains in a 600 or chafer insert should do-or spring for a soup tureen or 2-double up if you need to. Also remember your covers have condensation on them and are dripping water down into your product everytime you shift the lid.

Reheating can also be your prob-do not boil, take it slow, and reheat only once. don't slap a hotel pan in the table and expect that to do it either. A whisk is your friend-i wouldn't finish until fire as said-lots of fat in those tails-not to mention an 8 hour crawfish tail on the table doesn't make me hungry...

hth, danny
post #10 of 16
sorry-didn't see, you're using 3 pans as a bain-remember if you just stack another 3 pan on top you might as well not even use them. you need some space around your product pan or you might just as well stick it in the table.
steam from the table or steam from the bain marie with no escape is just about the same. Or turn the table down.

hope that made sense and think gentle ;), danny
post #11 of 16
You're right. I have had fat slowly begin to separate from sauces over prolonged periods of high heat. Especially with very rich emulsions such as N.E. clam chowder. Curry does it too. For some reason I had it in my head that when a sauce breaks it's a more drastic/immediate occurance. I was wrong.

I do think, though, that SaltyChef's use of the descriptor 'soupy' puts this in a different category than a thin layer of fat slowly separating from a sauce. To me soupy denotes water. When I think of unstable water in this equation, my mind goes to the veggies.
post #12 of 16
Those 'other' people can go fly a kite. Trust your instincts and go with the butter :)
post #13 of 16
The type of fat you are using won't have any effect on whether your roux thickened sauce breaks or not. Though I definately prefer butter over margarine, it won't make a difference. When I was down in New Orleans, many chefs I know made their roux with oil, especially when making dark roux. Their reasoning behind it was that as the roux starts to darken the solids in butter start to burn before the roux is dark enough, lending a bitter edge to a dark roux. One thing I would do is sweat your veggies before adding to the roux. Though many traditional recipes have you adding right to the roux I disagree with that method. First off by sweating the veg. separately you do drive off excess moisture. Also you have more control over thickening if you add the roux to the other ingredients than if it is the other way around.
post #14 of 16
I lived in southern louisiana for 15 years....oil is used for roux almost exclusively.
If your going to fire the sauce prior to dishing, add the crawfish then...they will have a much better texture. :)
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #15 of 16
So do I. Sweating the veggies seems to bring a greater depth of flavor to the final dish.
post #16 of 16
A few ideas:

Make sure your flour and butter/oil/fat ratio is equal by weight.... eyeballing anything is never consistent.

Cook your soup/sauce until you have acheived maximum roux coagulation..... 15- 20 minutes on a simmer. once this is done all ingredients have leached their liquid and are one with the sauce...

Hold out the crawfish (or in the case of chowder- clams) and heat in sauce or soup to order... two reasons #1 you want the buggers to be tender #2 they have a high fat content its just not stored like cow or pig fat (concentrated on the outside). As it sits in the holding vat (at any temperature over 120 degrees, which I think is the average melting temperature of animal fats) the fats leach out of the shellfish, thus throwing your carefully calculated roux to fat ratio out of whack... :lips:
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