Hello and welcome, Ensigns, to the second Cooking Academy Lesson. Today we are going to be tackling a skill that will come in handy for many recipes you will encounter at the Captain’s Table and in future cooking endeavours. It’s also one of our first skill that it going to require a little effort and maybe some mistakes. Today we will be taking on how to make a Roux.
For those of you who may be a bit new to cooking and the language surrounding it, a roux is a French technique that combines a lipid (fats or oils) with flour. If that doesn’t sound hard, that’s because making a roux really isn’t that hard. Honestly the only skill you need is time, patience and a bit of focus. But what catches most people up is the idea that you may burn your roux, so let’s start with what to do with if you burn your roux.
If you burn your roux: start over.
A roux is flour and, often times, oil. These are relatively cheap and makes roux making a good place to start because most of us can spare a few tablespoons of flour and oil. And, honestly, everyone burns a roux at some point. It happens and it can be frustrating, but that’s ok. We all make mistakes. It allows us to learn from them and move forward.
Now, take a deep breath, and let’s move forward.
How To Make A Roux
There are a lot of ways to make a roux. In the oven. In the microwave. But I’m going to stick with my tried and true method of making a roux on the stove. It allows you to have constant visual (because you will be standing there stirring) and prepares you for future recipes that seem more complex than they are like a risotto.
Now the first step is to have your ingredients ready. The first of these is flour. Now I have never been so bold as to substitute an All Purpose white flour for something else like a rye or almond flour and I never will be, odds are. Not to disuade you from the idea, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of cooking it’s that it helps to know the limits. And messing with the flour portion of my roux by getting creative? That’s my limit right there.
The lipids, however, are free game. You can use canola oil, corn oil, lard, butter, animal fat, Crisco. Hell, use bacon fat! Honestly, the world is your oyster. Just don’t use Olive Oil. I say, and bold, that because olive oil has a pungent taste that makes it the enemy of most French sauces in my experience. It’s overbearing and not fit for something that calls for subtlety like a mayonaise or, in our case, a roux.
Now that you have your flour and your lipid, you are going to warm the lipid over a medium heat. If you’re feeling particularly patient or happen to be new to the technique, use a medium-low. It will take a little longer, but there’s less chance of burning the roux if you’re making anything that calls for anything darker than a blonde roux.
Once the lipids are warmed up, you add the flour and begin to whisk them together for a bechamel, which is a basic white sauce that I actually like to include in my cheese ravioli, but that’s a later post. Point being that when your only goal is to make sure the flour and the lipids are combined and nothing more, whisking works best in my opinion. Take the time to ensure that the flour is thoroughly combined since coating the flour in the lipid is what keeps it from clumping when you add your liquids.
And when it comes time to add your liquids, you will add it in slowly and whisk vigorously as you do. This gives the roux time to soak up the liquid and become a smooth paste as it absorbs the liquid. If you rush this process or it seems to be clumping up, stop adding liquid and don’t be afraid to remove it from the heat as you whisk it until most of it is smooth. And maybe remove the lumps before carrying on.
Fun Fact: Butter contains water as well, but not enough to create clumping with the flour when first combined. However, this is also the reason you won’t see many Cajun/Creole rouxes call for butter.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of making a roux, let’s keeps going with another type of roux: Creole Roux. The process is essentially the exact same as when we made our basic French Roux where you warm your lipid, add flour, and combine until the flour is cooked. Only here, we have to cook it a bit longer.
So, to start, you are going to want to follow a 2:3 ratio of oil to flour. Other people may say otherwise, but I have found that that ratio has never let me down. Also, note how I said oil. When it comes to a Creole Roux, I would never suggest using something like butter unless you intend to make a blonde roux. Should you be aiming for anything darker than that (and odds are that you will be) use an oil because you can cook it longer.
That being said, a Creole Roux is typically made on the stove in a pan with a fairly high top because you don’t want what’s in that pot to touch your flesh if you intend to continue having said flesh. Not for nothing, but we are still cooking with hot oil.
And we’re going to cook with that hot oil for longer because where a French Roux is used to help thicken a sauce, the Creole Roux is used for flavor. This is because as the roux cooks, it both darkens and loses it’s thickening powers. However, it does begin to take on a rich, nutty flavor that it will impart on the food.
Although when you taste it, regardless of the color, it should still taste like flour and oil. A toasted flavor means it came close to burning, at which point my momma would say to start over. And if you see little black flecks when you stir it, take it off the heat because you are in the Danger Zone of burning it.
Roux by Colors
So with that, I leave you with a recipe for a roux the way I tend to make it. It’s not complex, though it is time consuming. Feel free to play with ratio, the ingredients and the temperature as you gain a bit more confidence. And if you burn it, don’t worry. It happens.
- 3 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Over medium heat, warm your vegetable.
- Add in your flour and whisk until the flour is combined with the oil and the roux is to the color you desire.
- Use immediately or remove to heat and allow to cool slightly before bottling for future use.
Made the recipe? Show us on instagram using the hashtag #thecaptainstablelog and be sure to tag @_thecaptainstable while you’re at it.