October 12 was National Gumbo Day. I wanted to honor the day but I was feeling under the weather and did not want to stand over the stove to make a roux. Fortunately, there is a easy substitution for this. So today, I will let you in on a few of my go to shortcuts.

There are a few options for making a roux. You can buy a jar of pre-made roux or you can by a roux mix. When in a pinch, I use Tony Chachere’s Creole Instant Roux Mix. It is a foolproof way to make a roux. The best thing about the mix is that you never have to worry about burning the roux. Once a roux starts to burn, you must throw it out and start over. It is almost impossible to burn the roux mix.

Many of my recipes call for stock. A homemade stock will elevate your dish to another level. However, many people do not want to take the hours to make stock from scratch. In the soup isle of your grocery store, you will find many different brands of pre-made stock. Beef, Chicken, Seafood and Vegetable stocks are all available. I have used all of the different brands. They are all good.When I purchased the seafood stock, the cashier told me that she did not know that they made that product. It gives you a much better end result than broth.

Another decent shortcut can be found in the sauce isle. Many people are afraid of making Hollandaise and Bernaise sauce from scratch. You can buy mixes of these sauces that are good substitutions for the real thing. Again, the mix will take the guesswork out of the preparation. Many people hesitate before making hollandaise sauce because it can easily break or separate. While they are easy to fix, most people will not attempt to make the sauce again. To fix a broken hollandaise sauce, you can either slowly add hot water or an egg yolk to your hollandaise to bring it back. The same can be done with Bernaise.

If a recipe calls for fresh herbs, you can substitute dry herbs in their place. The rule of thumb is to use 1/3 dry in the place of the fresh. The flavors of the dry herbs are more concentrated than the fresh so less is more. Make sure that your dry herbs are up to date. They start to lose their freshness after 3 months.

Of course, you can purchase onions and garlic already chopped. There is one item that I will not use a shortcut for, Parmesan Cheese. I always grated fresh Parmesan from wedges that you can buy. It only takes a minute or two but you are getting a more superior product. The powdered stuff is good if you are mixing with breadcrumbs for a breading. The pre-shredded cheese I find has a waxy flavor from the preservatives that are used in it. Always grate your own.

This is a reworking of my Seafood Gumbo using shortcuts.

Seafood Gumbo
1 cup Instant Roux Mix
2 cups Water
1 tablespoon Butter
I cup Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Celery, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
2 32-ounce cartons Seafood Stock
1 Pound 70-90 count Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Dry Parsley Flakes
Cooked Rice
Filé Powder

Over medium heat, whisk instant roux mix with the water. Bring to a boil. After mixture begins to thicken, remove from heat. Continue to stir until well mixed.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onions and celery until soft about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Add to the roux mixture.

Return the roux to the stove and add the seafood stock and mix well to make sure there are no lumps of roux. Add the dry seasonings and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to low. 20 minutes before serving, add the shrimp, crabmeat, green onions and parsley. Serve over cooked rice and season with Filé at the table.

Will you get a good result from using these shortcuts? Of course you will. Will it taste the same as if you made everything from scratch. In my opinion, no. But these shortcuts will get dinner on the table faster and you will have more time to spend with your loved ones.