Although using roux as a base for sauces and soups is a classical French technique, more roux is used in Creole and Cajun cooking than in all other cuisines combined. So many recipes in our local cookery start with a roux that it’s become a cliché to say so. In most of my recipes, however,I find it better to make the roux separately, and add it later in the recipe, once the liquid component is in. That way I can control the amount of roux in the dish.
Roux is basically browned flour. In Louisiana, the roux is most commonly browned in some kind of fat. The degree of browning depends on the recipe. A blond roux gets no color at all. The other extreme is almost black. Every shade in between is possible. Most recipes specify the color, amount, and oil component of the roux. The one in this recipe is a typical medium-dark roux.
It is probably a good idea to cook roux slowly if you’re not experienced. It is essential that the roux not burn, because that’s a terrible flavor that will ruin your dish. If you burn the roux (and you will know it if you do by the smell), dump what you have, clean the pot, and start over.
Someone who makes roux all the time gets brave, and heats the fat very hot to cook the roux more rapidly. He also knows that roux gets incredibly hot, and is careful not to splash it on himself. Splattered roux feels as if it will burn all the way through to the bone.
The best tool for making a roux is a “roux stick,” a wooden spoon whose end is straight insetad of rounded. It allows you to scrape the bottom of the top with every stroke.
- 7/8 cup oil, butter, or other fat
- 1 cup flour
1. In a heavy saucepan or skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers, or the butter till it bubbles. Sprinkle in the flour and begin stirring with a wooden spoon or roux stick. Stir constantly, leaving no part of the bottom of the pan unstirred for long.
2. After a minute or so, the texture of the mixture will change. You now have a blond roux. It will begin to brown, getting darker at an accelerating rate.
3. The roux will not stop getting darker unless you cool it down. In some cases, this is done by removing the pan from the fire and stirring in the chopped onions, celery, and other vegetables from the recipe you’re making. If you don’t have such a step in the recipe, you must turn the heat off a bit before the desired color is reached, but keep stirring. The heat in the roux will continue to cook itself for a few minutes., and it will get darker. (Or even burn, if you don’t keep stirring.)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.