In her biweekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.
This week, Susan demonstrates how to make roux.
Roux is a thickening agent made by combining and cooking flour and fat. Integral to French cuisine, it underpins many classic soups and sauces. It can also act as the base for tuna casserole, mac and cheese, and other traditional American casseroles. Darker shades of roux, including brown and chocolate, bring depth and flavor to gumbos, étouffées, and other Creole and Cajun classics.
Roux is easy to prepare, requiring nothing more than a saucepan and whisk. The general rule is to start with equal parts flour to fat, but that will vary depending on the dish. French recipes for roux generally call for clarified butter, while Cajun or Creole recipes incorporate butter, oil, or lard. Dark shades of roux, which are cooked the longest, possess the strongest flavors.
How to Make Roux
Note: I’m using butter and flour to prepare a blond roux for mac and cheese. You may cook the roux for more or less time, depending on the desired outcome.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add a smidge of flour to the butter.
When the mixture begins to froth around the edges, add the rest of the flour. Whisk the ingredients together to form a paste.
To produce a white roux, continue to whisk until the paste thins and the yellow hue from the butter disappears. The paste should look pale. This will only take a few minutes.
To produce a blond (or golden) roux, continue to whisk over medium heat until the flour begins to caramelize and the roux turns tan.
To produce a brown roux, continue to whisk over medium heat until it takes on the color of peanut butter.
Continue cooking beyond that, and you're in dark-roux territory, with dark brown roux ("red roux") next up, and even darker "chocolate" roux last in line.
Susan's blond roux-tightened mac and cheese
I’d love to see your tips for making roux! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.
Are you new to cooking? Tell me what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!
Photos by Susan Pachikara
Want more basic tips from Susan? Check out her previous post: Kitchen Basics: Folding.
Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest.