A Fundamental Technique With Myriad Applications

A fundamental technique with myriad applications

Roux is king in the kitchen.

Made from a cooked combination of flour and fat, this two-part harmony is an all-purpose thickener fundamental to velouté, béchamel and espagnole sauces and is critical for superb gumbo and gravy.

The length of time that you cook the roux determines its color, from blond to deep brown, and its flavor; a deeply browned roux, often used in Cajun and Creole cooking, has the aroma and flavor of toasted pecans. A lighter roux, by contrast, is cooked just enough to eliminate a raw flour taste in a finished dish, but has more thickening power than its darker brethren.

Think of roux as a more flavorful alternative to cornstarch, and keep in mind the following ratio: a roux is made from one part fat to one part flour by weight. The fat used is often butter, but darker roux is usually made with vegetable or olive oil, which can withstand the longer cooking time without burning. Lard and beef fat can also be used.

And humble roux cuts across many cultures: It's used in macaroni and cheese, lasagna, chicken potpie, turkey gravy, chowder and jambalaya.

Sometimes it's good to be king.