Cooking Louisiana  -  Making a Roux
Making a roux
Many recipes from South Louisiana start with "first you make a roux". You've heard that before I'm sure. The experienced Cajun cook can make a roux without even thinking about it. The newcomer to Cajun cookery may not be so fortunate so I'll explain, to the best of my ability, how to do it. Keep in mind that this is "my" way, not necessarily the right or wrong way. Roux's are cooked in several fashions and most work just fine. My way is the "old fashioned" way.

Before we get started you need to decide how much roux you need for a particular dish. This depends on a few things, one; do you like a thick or thin gravy, and two; how much are you cooking. I read somewhere a while back where a guy made a 4 cup of flour roux and was asking why the dish tasted so funny when he and girlfriend ate their meal. He cooked enough roux to make eight gallons of gumbo and most likely had a gallon of water in it. Hey, I've got to give it to him for trying!

For a gumbo I use about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour per gallon of gumbo. That's just a general rule of thumb I use to get the consistency I like. Some people like thick gumbo and some like thin. If in doubt, cook more roux than you think you need and take some out before you start putting the other stuff together. You can then add more roux if you want a thicker consistency.

If you are a beginner at rouxs start out with a half flour, half oil mixture. The more oil you use the less likely it will burn too fast. As you get better at it you can use less oil. Add the oil and flour to the pot and set the fire on medium. My best rouxs were made in a cast iron pot or cast iron skillet. Using a spatula, stir the roux scraping the entire bottom of the pot every time. Using a spatula allows you to move all of the mixture around and you don't have to make more than a few passes to do it. Stir the mixture every 15 seconds or so. The roux will bubble at first then will get smooth as it cooks. WARNING.. Don't be tempted to walk away and do something else, if the roux burns at any point during the process, it is no good. Once the roux has turned a medium brown lower the fire just a little. Keep stirring as you were before. You will notice with each stirring the roux gets a tiny bit more brown.

Click here to see the progressive colors of the roux as it cooks.

The roux you just saw was a "dark" roux, there are dishes that call for a "blond" roux that is naturally not as dark.

As the roux turns browner lower the fire a little. Burning a roux after standing there stirring for an hour could have detrimental effects on the your dogs' rear end!

If you start to see smoke turn the fire as low as you can get it, or, turn it off to let it cool a little while. When smoke appears the oil has reached its "smoke point". The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke (simple huh?). It is preferable that this doesn't happen because the oil will give off a foul taste if it goes beyond the smoke point. Different oils have different smoke points, for instance, peanut oil has a higher smoke point than vegetable oil. That means you can get peanut oil hotter than vegetable oil before it starts smoking.

When the roux is done add vegetables as the recipe calls for. When it's time to add the liquid turn the fire up a little and add liquid about 1/4 cup at a time, and, use warm liquid if possible. Let it bubble before adding more. After adding about two cups of liquid let it come to a boil then add the remaining liquid. You want the roux to mix with the water and too much of a temperature change too fast will often make it separate, or, break it. That's when you wind up with a layer of brown grease floating on top of your gumbo.

The dish you are cooking must come to a boil for the roux to reach its' full thickening potential.

Roux's can be made with butter and bacon grease also. Each has it's taste benefits. Pay close attention to the type of roux oil that a recipe uses, the specific type required could be for a reason.

Pre-Made Jar roux is also available but be sure you know that when you use it use a low fire so you don't burn it. Even if you dump it in a pot of boiling water it will still fall to the bottom in clumps and burn. It will eventually dissolve so keep stirring.

Here's how you can use powdered roux!

Bon Appetite....