Roux serves as a thickening agent for sauces, stews and soups, and it is prepared with clarified butter and wheat flour. Sometimes lard, animal fats or vegetable oil are also used in the preparation of roux and at times all-purpose flour is substituted in place of wheat flour. Various roux recipes serve as the base for French sauces. The three basic French sauces prepared using roux are: sauce veloute, sauce espagnole, and sauce béchamel. The béchamel sauce serves as the basis of many sauces and it is prepared by mixing equal parts of the flour and butter. Hungarian roux recipes demand for the usage of lard or vegetable oil in place of the butter.
Roux which is pronounced as “rue” or “roo” is a French word for thickening agent.
History of Roux
Roux was first used as the thickening agent and binder in the early 17th century.
Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of Roux
As said before roux is prepared using wheat flour or all-purpose flour and lard/butter/animal fats. The thickening power of the roux depends on the starch content of the flour used. The starch in the flour expands when cooked with fats. The fat serves as a lubricant and softens the mixture when cooked.
The experts mostly prefer to use clarified butter in the roux recipes, especially while preparing the white sauce. If whole butter is used in the preparation of the roux then sauce may require skimming. The widely accepted standard of flour to fat ratio 6:4. The resulting thickness of the sauce, soup, or stew depends on the quantity of the liquid used in the preparation of the roux. Other than butter- meat residues and drippings, oil, margarine, fat from poultry is also used in the preparation of roux.
Popular Roux Recipes
- Chicken, Sausage and Okra Gumbo: Gumbo is a traditional Cajun food which is cooked in the roux base. This soup is usually served over the hot rice.
- Shrimp Gumbo: This gumbo soup is prepared by mixing shrimp, with andouille sausage and roux. This gumbo soup is normally served over rice.
- Cheddar Cheese Sauce: This is a popular cheese sauce which is served with vegetables or pasta. It is normally prepared by mixing roux with pepper, and milk.
- Béchamel Sauce: This sauce is normally prepared using the white roux and is flavored with nutmeg. Normally the béchamel sauce is teamed with vegetables.
- Crawfish Etouffee: Fish stock and crawfish tails are mixed with roux while preparing this etouffee. It is served hot around a mound of rice.
- Cajun Meatball Stew: This meatball is prepared using dry roux and grounded beef. This stew is normally served with white rice and whole corn is served as its side dish.
Popular Variations of Roux
- French Roux: It is a mixture of flour and butter in equal amounts. Normally the French roux is blonde, white or brown depending on the type of sauce it is going to be used for. The white roux is used in the preparation of velouté, and béchamel sauce. Blonde roux is normally cooked to golden color. Brown roux is used in the preparation of Espagnole and demi- glace. The brown roux is solely used as thickening agent.
- Cajun Roux: This roux recipe calls for substitution of lard, bacon fat, vegetable oil, or duck fat in place of butter. Its color may vary from light brown to deep, dark and nutty brown. This dark brown Cajun roux recipe serves as the base for many Cajun dishes. In a way it can be said that this Cajun roux is an integral part of many Cajun dishes.
- Creole Roux: This roux is basically same as the French roux only that it uses lard or bacon fat in place of the butter. It is basically used as the thickener. It picks up the color variations from the point where the barriers end for French roux.
- Cretan Staka: This roux is the specialty of Cretan cuisine. It is normally prepared by collecting high fat cream layer formed on the fresh goat milk. This fat layer is melted over the heat and flour and salt is added to it. The protein-rich part of the butterfat mixes with wheat flour and the resulting substance is called staka proper. The fatty part is separated and is called staka butter. The staka butter is used in the preparation of some dishes. The staka butter has faint cheesy flavor,and normally it is refrigerated for the further use.
- Corn Roux: This is a contemporary variant to the Cajun roux. This roux recipe uses corn flour in place of the all-purpose flour or wheat flour. This type of roux is famous in southern Brooklyn area of New York.
Culinary Uses of Roux
Roux is normally used as the thickening and flavoring agent in many Creole, Cajun and French Recipes.
Miscellaneous Facts about Roux
- Roux is often mistaken with beurre manié, which is also a thickening agent used in the preparation of sauces. But the main difference lies in their method of preparation. The roux is cooked in pan but the beurre manié is mashed in bowl with fork.
- Roux demonstrates weak holding power if cooked for a long time. Some starches like corn flour, and tapioca does not hold well when cooled.
- The fats with high heating points should be chosen while preparing roux.
- The liquid added to a roux recipe can be hot or cool but neither too hot or nor too cool.
- Other than the brown, white and blonde roux, there are red and black roux’s too. The red and black ones are used to flavorise the sauce.