A cornerstone of sauce making, roux is made
by cooking flour and fat together until they form a paste. Roux is used
primarily as a thickener, but it also adds complex flavor to whatever
dish it's used in. When making roux, begin by heating the fat in a heavy
saucepan. Butter is used most often, but roux can also be made with
vegetable oil, lard or duck fat. Once the fat has melted, add an equal
amount of flour and stir until smooth. Cook the roux over medium-low
heat, stirring constantly, until it has reached the desired color.
Roux can also be made for thickening but not
for adding color or flavor. Cook the roux for only a few minutes without
letting it color which is also known as white roux. However, to make
roux for thickening and adding a light color and flavor, cook the roux
until it turns golden blond in color. Use this type of roux to enrich
cream-based soups and sauces.
To make a roux with a complex flavor but
little thickening ability, cook the roux until it turns dark brown. This
is the most flavorful roux, but keep in mind that a roux loses its
thickening power as it cooks. Dark roux is a traditional ingredient in
Cajun gumbo (which gets extra thickening from cooked okra).
Make sure that any added liquid is not
steaming hot. If it is, the sauce will thicken too quickly and become
lumpy. Cook the sauce at least 30 minutes before serving to eliminate
any raw flour taste in a roux-thickened sauce. If you need to cook
a brown roux faster, toast the flour first. Heat a small skillet over
medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons flour to the hot, dry skillet and
stir until the flour turns light brown (1 minute) or dark brown (2
minutes). Stir constantly to ensure that the flour doesn't burn. Remove
the skillet from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
until melted. Makes enough to thicken 2 cups liquid.