Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Joy of Cooking: All About Soups and Stews

Roux (pronounced "roo") is a basic thickening agent, which is used in many of my upcoming cream soup, Newburg, bisque, and gumbo recipes. Once you learn how to make roux, it will quickly become a staple item in your kitchen.

Roux can be made with a variety of oils and animal fats. It is commonly made with vegetable oil, olive oil, or clarified butter, but can also be prepared with bacon grease or other rendered fats. Its distinction from other thickeners is that the starch, in this case flour, is cooked before use. Cooking removes the flour's raw taste but maintains its excellent thickening properties. This enables roux to be a stable, smooth, and delicate thickener. When cooked to a golden or brown stage, roux takes on a rich, toasted flavor, adding color to a soup, stew, sauce, or other dishes.

Making the Perfect Roux:
Roux can be made in small quantities as part of a recipe, but its best made in larger amounts and kept on hand for use when needed. Larger quantities cook slowly and evenly, allowing the flour to achieve its maximum potential, while small amounts cook quickly, unevenly, and are easier to burn.

Louise’s Basic Roux
1 1/2 cup Olive oil, canola Oil, melted margarine (no transfat) or melted butter
2 cup Flour (half whole wheat)

Please note: once roux has started to color, don’t leave the stove: ignore telephones, doorbells, children and pets, and keep stirring. If roux burns (it will develop a burned smell and blackened patches), throw it out and start over. Roux can't be rushed; it's a gradual process and needs patience. When cooked too rapidly, roux may brown but it won't develop its characteristic flavor. When roux is done, it will smell like well-cooked flour; it may taste and smell slightly bitter when sampled 'as is', but this doesn't mean it is burned.

1. Mix oil and flour in a heavy cast-iron, Pyrex, or stainless steel skillet. Do NOT use a nonstick-coated pan. If mixture is not as soft as pancake batter, add more oil.
2. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring gently but constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping roux from bottom and sides of skillet. If any lumps develop, whisk with a wire whisk until they break up.
3. Cook until the color is white, blond, brown, or dark brown mahogany depending on your tastes. I like to use a medium light brown tan color. This will take from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your pan, the heat of your stove, and your desired strength. Be patient. Brown and dark brown roux have more flavor, but less thickening power than white or blond roux. They are primarily used in Cajun and Creole dishes, most notably, gumbo and jambalaya.
4. After the roux is done, remove from heat to cool, but keep stirring constantly for the first few minutes. Then stir frequently for 10 minutes longer, since roux will continue to cook from its own heat for a few minutes. As the roux cools, some of the oil will float to the top. As it sits, the flour will begin to settle to the bottom. Stir the oil back into the flour before using, as this will make the roux dissolve smoothly. If you decide to pour off the oil, the roux will still work, but will require more whisking into a sauce in order to fully dissolve.
5. After the roux has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. Roux will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator or freezer until ready for use. Roux made with vegetable oil can be stored at room temperature for several weeks, but roux made with butter or fat should always be refrigerated. In my kitchen the roux was kept refrigerated in blocks and we grated (with a cheese grater or food processor) off what we needed for each recipe. Grated bits of roux whisked into your broth or hot liquid will dissolve easier and with less lumps than if you just throw a block of it into your dish!
6. Usage: Roux begins to thicken soon after it is combined with a liquid, but your dish should be simmered for 10 to 20 minutes in order to reach its full flavor and thickening potential. This additional cooking time allows the flour to soften and absorb the liquid, resulting in a silky smooth soup or sauce. If the simmering time is too short, the flour in the roux will remain grainy. Good luck!

Cajun Cooking for Beginners

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