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A mixture of fat (usually butter) and flour that gets cooked together and used as a thickening agent for soups, stews, sauces and gravies. A common ratio is 50/50, but some chefs claim that 40/60 (flour to fat) yields a more desirable consistency.
A roux can be white, blonde or brown depending on what it will be used for (white roux with cream sauces, blonde roux for golden-colored gravies, etc). The longer it cooks, the darker it gets. A very dark brown roux is most famous in the US as one of the defining flavor bases for New Orleans Gumbo, requiring several hours of cooking time and frequent stirring to achieve the dark, nut-brown color.
To make a standard white roux, simply melt butter in a saucepan, mix in flour with a wooden spoon and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently so the roux at the bottom does not brown too quickly. Overall, an average 1/2 lb. batch should take about 10 minutes.
For blond roux, cook the batch longer, until it develops a slightly nutty aroma and the desired light golden color.
For brown roux it is best to start the roux on the stovetop, but then transfer the pan to a slow oven of 275°-300°F. Oven heat is more uniform and gentle so the roux has a better chance of developing deep color without burning. Be sure to stir as needed.
Typically roux is prepared, then allowed to cool before adding to a hot liquid.
To use roux, first bring your soup or sauce up to a boil, add room temperature or cooler roux, and then mix vigorously with a wire whip until smooth. Roux will only activate if the liquid is at simmering temperature or hotter, and thickening occurs within moments from mixing in. It is also important to let the newly-thickened liquid cook for about 10 minutes before serving, until the flour-like flavor dissipates.
- Wrapped well in the fridge, roux will keep indefinitely but it will also become hard and solid. It can also be safely stored at room temperature, just wrap it well and keep in a cool spot.
- The longer a roux cooks, the weaker its thickening power. 2 oz of white roux will thicken more liquid than 2 oz. of brown roux.
- Don't add hot roux to hot liquid or cold roux to cold liquid. That can lead to clumps of roux in your food.
- Have patience, especially when preparing a brown roux. There is no way to rush the process and produce quicker results without ruining the end result.
- Pans with rounded bottom corners, such as a "Saucier" are ideal for making roux and sauces. Their shape makes stirring easier so roux won't burn and ruin the batch. If you really want to up your sauce skills, this specialty pan will help.
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