Roux Sauce and Gravy 101
What Is a Roux?
Roux, pronounced “ro͞o”, a French term, is the result of combining and heating equal amounts of fat and starch. Roux is the basis of sauces and gravies. The fat content is typically butter, but other fats include oil and/or pan drippings from sauteed or roasted meats. A roux is the base of a dish or sauce; it is not a sauce on its own.
How Do I Make a Roux?
Melt the fat first, then sprinkle in the flour stirring constantly. This initial step cooks the raw flour. Raw flour tastes awful! After about two minutes or so the flour is done. At this point, you can do a couple of things:
- Add the roux directly to a soup or stew for thickening
- Add a cold liquid to the roux to make a sauce or gravy and stir constantly on low heat; using a warm liquid will create lumps
Using equal amounts of butter and flour, melt butter in a heavy-bottom skillet.
Once butter has melted, sprinkle in flour, stirring continually.
Three Types of Roux
There are various degrees of roux: the first being white, the next is blonde and the third is dark. Each of these is the first step in creating a delicious sauce or gravy. When first making roux, the white roux will be thin, then will thicken as it cooks, becoming “blonde” roux; once the roux has reached the blonde stage, the roux’s binding power begins to lessen, and the roux becomes thin again, but darker. Generally speaking, a dark roux is thinner and offers a more deep, robust flavor than white or blonde roux.
White roux is thin and used for white sauces, blonde roux is thicker than white and is used for thickening soups and stews, dark roux is the thinnest and is used primarily for adding a deep flavor to gravies and gumbos.
What Sauces Can I Make from a White Roux?
White roux and dairy (milk or cream) creates a Bechamel sauce, which is one of The Five Mother Sauces. This is a basic white sauce, often used in vegetable dishes, or to thicken light colored soups or stews, such as potato soup or seafood chowder.
You can also make a cream gravy. Heat the fat and flour, add milk, stir or whisk until it is smooth, season with salt and pepper.
A Great Substitute for Canned Condensed Soups
A white roux can also substitute for condensed soup in a recipe. For instance, if the recipe calls for “Cream of Celery Soup”, simply prepare the white roux and add sauteed chopped celery, salt and pepper. Same concept for “Cream of Mushroom”–add sauteed mushrooms to the white roux.
When seafood stock or broth is added to a white or blonde roux, it is termed Veloute sauce which is the 2nd of The Five Mother Sauces.
What Sauces Can I Make from a Blonde Roux?
Blonde is a bit thicker than a white, so it has stronger binding properties. A perfect example of a blonde roux is Mornay sauce, where cheese is added to the blonde base. If you prefer a thicker Veloute sauce, add seafood stock to a blonde roux. A popular Veloute sauce for fish is a creamy lemon-dill sauce.
Blonde roux is an excellent basis for condensed “Cream of Chicken” soup; simply add a bit of chicken stock or broth to the blonde roux, allow it to cook for a few minutes, then incorporate into the dish.
What Sauces Can I Make from a Dark Roux?
Dark roux is used as the basis for Gumbo, which is French-Louisiana staple menu item, consisting of a dark broth with seafood and/or andouille sausage, onion, celery, bell pepper and okra. Dark roux also makes an excellent brown gravy for coq a vin, braised pot roasts or hearty Chicken Stew!
Can I Make Roux in Advance?
It can be made in advance; once cooled, divide into portions and place in a securely sealed container. Refrigerate up to one week; frozen roux can be frozen up to six months.
Now that you know how to make a roux, feel free to explore the many different types of sauces, or create your own!