Roux - for rich simple sauces and more

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Roux - for rich simple sauces and more

Postby td » Fri Aug 01, 2008 7:56 am

Three of the four classic French mother sauces are thickened with roux ("rue" for those like me who struggle with French pronunciation)but it doesn't have to be limited to those. Flour is a very nice thickener in the end but if you just make a slurry and add it to your soup/gravy/whatever you'll be standing at the stove stirring till the cows come home ...tomorrow. Roux is simply a method of pre-cooking the flour in a fat at high heat before adding it to the relatively cool pot of boiling water-based liquid. And of course butter is the logical fat of choice! :lol:

Roux:

Use about equal parts butter and flour. If you have some sort of sick objection to butter get counseling or us a little less oil than butter since butter is about 15% water (or so). Actually, nevermind. only use butter. However, you must us a fat since it can exist at higher temperatures than the water-based liquides you want to thicken and thus cook the flour faster.

Melt the butter in a skillet or saucier (something with an easy curve between sides and bottom to allow you to get into the corner with your wisk) over medium to high heat. The hotter the faster but its easy to go from pale roux to burnt crust in seconds if your not careful.

As soon as the butter is hot and bubbling dump the flour in and begin whisking immediately. Continue whisking until the mixture no longer puffs up when you pause (only momentarily). At this point you have a blonde roux. (If you used oil it might look a little like white glue or maybe sickly green of you used olive and you won't have any good indicators -like puffing- to let you know when it's done.) This roux has the maximum thickening power and will add a creamy color to whatever your thickening.

If you desire a darker sauce with a nuttier flavor then just keep whisking. You'll notice it begin to darken into shades of nutty brown. Cook it to whatever color you desire but keep in mind two important things: 1) don't get all dreamy watching it darken or you'll watch it become brown charcoal in short order. It's hard to say just when to stop but if it's the color of ground cocoa you may have gone too far and if it looks like full fledged chocolate it's a good as charcoal. In my own kitchen it's 2-3 minutes after I turn on the burner that I start to panic that I took it too far. Just before you have the color you want get it off the heat and keep whisking, it will "coast" a bit further. If you're using a heavy pan whisk in some of the liquid to be thickened to cool off the roux and the pan to something below frying temperatures. 2) the darker the roux the less the thickening power. Plan ahead and if you want a nice dark nutty flavored roux, make twice as much as you would use of blonde roux.

Now that you have a roux you may add the liquid to be thickened. If you haven't already done so add a small amount of the liquid to the roux and whisk together. Use about as much liquid as you have roux. Think of it as getting the fat-based roux used to the idea of mixing with water. You can now whisk in the rest of the liquid. If you want to add a small amount of roux to a large amount of liquid (i.e. a soup) then whisk in a couple more splashes of liquid to the roux to give it that extra bit of water-compatibility before adding the roux to the big pot.

Heat/reheat sauce, whisking continuously, till thickened. This usually happens just as it comes to a boil (a little quicker than cornstarch) but if it's a thick sauce the bubbles may not make it all the way out without the help of the whisk so it may not look like it's boiling. Go by the changes in consistency.

How much to make?

I learned a useful rule of thumb called the rule of "1." 1oz (28g) butter & 1oz flour thickens 1lb (455g) of liquid very nicely. Also, 1T butter & 1T flour thickens 1c liquid. This seems to work well for all of my usual applications. I regularly make a light brown gravy using a medium colored roux and homemade chicken stock which thickens to a nice light syrupy consistency similar to creme anglais (canned broth works too but ends up a tad runnier). I also use the same proportions for mac-n-cheese using a blonde roux and milk as the base (bechamel). The resulting cheese sauce is nice and thick and clings well to the macaroni. For thickening soup, however, I double or triple the amount of liquid depending on how toothy I want the soup base to be. (I don't believe in soup stocks that mound up on the spoon!)

When you get the hang of it you'll be able to whip up a nifty little sauce in about 5 minutes and they don't have to be boring! You can use whatever liquid seems right for the occasion: milk, broth, stock, wine, CoolAid, whatever. Add spices, herbs, sauted veggies or saute the veggies in the butter and then just use the newly flavored butter for the roux.


Mac-N-Cheese:

1lb macaroni (you pick the shape)
1oz butter
1oz flour
1 pint (1lb) milk
1/2 lb (or up to 1lb) cheddar cheese
ground mustard
favorite chili powder blend
salt


Cook macaroni in a gallon of salted water till al dente.

Meanwhile:
Make a bechamel base sauce using butter and flour to make a blond roux and then whisking in the milk. Once thickened whisk in mustard and chili powder to taste (I use about a teaspoon + each but never measure) and set aside to cool a little.

Grate the cheese. When bechamel is cooled slightly (should still hurt to stick your finger in it but not cause damage) stir in the grated cheese a bit at a time till it's all incorporated. If you add the cheese too soon the cheese will ball up into a greasy clump that will never incorporate in your lifetime. If you add it too late and the cheese doesn't melt and incorporate nicely just set over medium heat and make sure to keep stirring till it works.

Combine the (drained) macaroni with the cheese sauce and enjoy.

This should take no longer than the time necessary to bring water to a boil and cook the macaroni. At this point I wait for the noodles to go into the pot before starting the rest of it lest the sauce get cold before the noodles are done.
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Postby td » Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:29 pm

Quick amendment/clarification to the roux instructions:

The roux is done when it stops puffing up in the pan. If you leave it along for a few seconds it will still swell a bit but you'll notice a definite sharp decrease in the rate at which the flour/fat mixer puffs up. Cooking beyond that point will darken the roux as described above.

It may be a silly thing to quibble about but, hey, food reigns supreme in my home! :)
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Re: Roux - for rich simple sauces and more

Postby billm007 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:41 am

I making that Mac n Cheese recipe tomorrow. The recipe looks failsafe and I can almost taste it already!
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