A term used to describe a cooked mixture of equal parts flour and fat (usually butter). Used as a thickener for sauces and other dishes, such as the sauce for macaronni and cheese, gravy or the starting base for gumbo or other soups and stews.
When used in Italian cooking, roux is traditionally equal parts butter and flour, however in Cajun cuisine, roux is almost always made with oil and flour which lends to a darker roux: more flavor with less thickening power - see below "Types of Roux".
Cooking the flour in fat coats the starch granules with the fat and prevents them from lumping together or forming lumps when introduced to a liquid. For a sauce, it's always a good idea to whisk in the liquid once the roux has formed.
There are 3 Types of Roux:
White Roux - is cooked only briefly and should be removed from the heat as soon as it develops a frothy, bubbly appearance. White roux is the basis of any bechamel sauce or for use in dishes where little or no color is desired. It provides little flavor other than a characteristic richness to a dish.
Blond Roux -
is cooked slightly longer than white roux and develops a little more color as the flour caramelizes, as seen in the picture above, for my One-Pot Cheesy Parmesan Pasta
. Blonde roux is used in ivory-colored sauces such as Veloute, or where a richer flavor is desired.
Brown Roux - is cooked until it develops a darker color and both a nutty aroma and flavor. Brown roux is often made with vegetable oils which have a higher smoke point than butter, and are used in brown sauces and in dishes where a darker color is desired. There are a few different stages of colors for a brown roux, resembling: peanut butter, a copper penny, chocolate milk or a reddish brick color. Each of the above colors develops the longer you cook the roux, essentially caramelizing (just prior to actually burning) the roux itself. Brown roux, however, is not used as much as a thickening agent as white or blond roux, it is more used for the flavor profile that the long cooking time develops. Examples of recipes that use a brown roux are from Cajun and Creole cuisines such as Gumbo.
Guidelines for Using a Roux:
Avoid using aluminum pots. The scraping action of the whisk will turn light sauces gray and will impart a metallic flavor.
Use sufficiently heavy pots to prevent sauces from scorching or buring during extended cooking times (brown roux).
Avoid extreme temperatures. Roux should be no colder than room temperature so that the fat does not solidify. Extremely hot roux can spatter when combined with a liquid.
When thickening stock with a roux, either add cold stock to hot roux or add room-temperature roux to a hot stock to prevent lumps. Once the roux and the liquid are completly incorporated, it is necessary to continue to boil it about 20 minutes to remove any raw flour flavor.
Avoid over-thickening. Roux does not begin to thicken a sauce until the sauce is almost boiling; so try to avoid adding more flour to thicken a roux, you will only end up with a flour-flavored sauce. Instead, increase the heat to almost boiling, stirring until desired thickness.
Roux is a cooking term mentioned in my One-Pot Cheesy Parmesan Pasta recipe.
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