Put down your bottle of Kitchen Bouquet and let’s talk.
As the joke goes, “Who’s ya momma, are you Catholic and can you make a roux!?” we’re gonna have a little chat on what roux is and why it’s that important.
Roux is a thickener.
White flour + fat + heat = roux
Plain and simple, but the final product, at least in Louisiana cooking, tastes neither plain nor simple.
People can use roux to thicken a stew and is often used in three main mother sauces of french cooking:
Béchamel – You’ve probably heard of this when you cook legit macaroni and cheese, lasagna or chicken pot pie from scratch. It’s when you whisk scalded milk with a light butter/flour roux.
Velouté – This is when you mix a light roux (meaning, you only brown it till it becomes a light blonde color) with a light fish/chicken stock and reduce.
Espagnole – A bit more hardy, this is when you mix your dark roux with a highly reduced veal stock (Like a demi-glace). Tomato paste is generally added at the end and reduced even further.
But for now, we’re gonna stick with a basic roux. It is, in my opinion, the MOST important part of a creole/cajun dish. Your roux is your religion. Your blood. Your soul.
Chef Paul Prudhomme calls it “Cajun Napalm” and if you’ve ever gotten hot roux flicked on you while cooking, it sizzles on your skin until you wipe it off — so with that being said, be careful when making roux! Use a good pan that conducts heat evenly. Try using a pan that has low sides so you can scrape all the corners.
It is crucial when making roux that you stir and scrape continuously. If you burn even the smallest bit of your roux, you have to trash it and start all over again.
Generally, I use vegetable oil and white AP flour. It’s the bread and butter of roux making, but really, you can use any fat. (Rendered chicken, duck fat, etc.)
Your ratio of fat to flour is 1:1. You want to start by getting your pan and oil good and hot. When it almost starts to smoke, start sprinkling in your flour a little at a time, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. Then, the fun begins!
I’d recommend starting some music and grabbin’ a few beers before making a roux. It helps the time go by faster. Just don’t lose track of your roux! Keep the heat at a medium and bring out that beautiful deep brown color.
The darker you get your roux, the thinner your stew will be. But, for gumbo, the darker — the better. (At least that’s what Justin Wilson says, and you can’t argue with dat’!)
If you plan on making a cup of roux, prepare to be standing and whisking for a good 30-45 minutes. Different recipes call for different colors of roux. The kind of fat you use also makes a difference. This is your base for etouffee and gumbo, as well as so many other good southern dishes. You can also make roux ahead of time and store it. If you’re gonna put in the effort, you might as well make a lot of it!
I know you’re debating on whether or not it’s worth it…to stand (or sit) and stir for that long of time when there’s so many other things you could be doing…like watching The Bachelor or America’s Next Best _____” — but alas, there’s nothin’ like the smell of a good roux in your kitchen, just waiting to be turned into a rad dish.
You won’t be let down…