Southern Kitchen Classics: Roux
Below is an excerpt from my cookbook, Grits to Guacamole and I offer it today in preparation for tomorrow’s Mardi Gras post. Okay, so now you know what to look forward from Cajun Chef Ryan and me. Over the years, I have read many varying ways on the right way to make a roux. Just as there are so many variations in gumbo (oops, I did it again) there are quite a few in making a roux. The basic method is always blending flour with some sort of fat. Animal lard, Crisco, cooking oil, butter – all will work just fine; it’s really up to you. Adding hot liquid or cold, again, it’s however you’ve been taught. This is the way I was taught, or self-taught from years of southern cooking. A roux base is in so many recipes; many times, you make it without even thinking about it being a roux. Let me know how you do it, how you make your roux.
The base for good stews and gumbos
To make a pleasing roux, one that is not only embedded in our southern ways of cooking but also essential in many foods of the world, a heavy pot is indispensable. Using cast iron, of course, is the best. If using water for the liquid, bring it to a low simmer before adding it to the roux or if using a stock from cooked meats, be sure to keep it hot. Cold liquids will curdle the flour and separate it from the oil.
I believe it is important to use a little more oil than flour and a good ratio is two-third cups of all-purpose flour to three-fourth cups of oil and the extra oil helps in moving around the flour. This is ample for a stew using a large hen or a gumbo of two to three pounds of seafood. Now, mix the oil with the flour in a cold pot, turn the heat on medium and begin stirring. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat to medium-low. Use a flat tip wooden spoon or paddle to lift up the flour from the bottom of the pot. The roux must brown slowly. Stir, stir and stir some more.
Never cook the roux too fast, as the flour will not meld with the liquids properly and if burned, you will have to start over so do it correctly the first time. Cook the roux to desired color, light brown for a few dishes but most fare well with a rich, dark brown chocolate color. As the roux begins to darken, turn down the heat to low. The flour and oil must remain together.
Once the color is the way you want it, turn off the heat and stir a few minutes for it to cool down. The roux needs to rest a little before continuing with the cooking process. I like to add the chopped vegetables at this point in helping to lower the temperature. Always bring each ingredient up to the desired temperature before adding the next ingredient. This will keep the temperature from changing too drastically and will help ‘marry’ everything together.
See also the 3 stages of Roux and a recipe