Ask New Orleanians for a recipe for gumbo, gravy, stew, chicken soup—you name it—they’ll say: “First you make a roux.” Pick up a Southern cookbook and many recipes begin: “To a roux, add…”
So how do you actually make a roux?
A roux is made of fat and flour, that simple. You can use lard, bacon grease, margarine or butter for your fat and any kind of flour—bleached, unbleached, whole wheat.
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Follow Three Roux Rules:
1) Mix fat and flour in equal proportions. Use as little as 2 tablespoons of each for a gravy for two people. Or as much as 4 or 5 tablespoons of each for a beef stew or a pot of gumbo.
2) Start it cold.
3) Cook it over very low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
Here’s my recipe, handed down from mother to daughter in my family for generations. This is a solid foundation for just about every kind of gravy or soup you’ll ever want to make.
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
STEP BY STEP:
1) Cut butter into chunks and place butter and flour in a cold frying pan. (If you melt butter and add flour to warm butter, you’ll have lots of lumps, so don’t.)
2) Turn heat on low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Don’t turn your back. Even on low heat, roux will burn if you don’t pay attention. If it smells burned, it is. Throw it out and start over.
3) Have patience. As you stir, flour and fat will blend and begin to bubble. The mixture will slowly turn from pale cream to beige to light brown to rich caramel. When the mixture is the color of peanut butter and smells done—i.e. like baked piecrust—your roux is ready.
4) To a roux, add beef or turkey drippings, skimmed of fat, for an easy gravy. Or add whatever else your recipe for soup, stew or gumbo suggests.