I know you are wondering what my two favorite “F” words are! Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s not what you are thinking. My favorite two “F” words are Fat and Flour when it comes to make a roux. The perfect foundation for just about anything! Do I suggest eating flour every day? Nope, just the tried and true concept of everything in moderation and with the type that works for you (that goes for every kind from all purpose to almond to oat flour to unbleached, whichever suits your fancy.).
When making a sauce, the recipe, most often times, will tell you that you are about to make a “roux” which is a fancy way of saying that you are going to combine fat and flour together to make a thickening base for just about any sauce, gravy or cream soup out there.
This is a step-by-step process. Unfortunately, if you combine everything together at the onset, it just won’t work the same way so for the sake of doing it right the first time, follow these simple 3 steps in the exact order listed.
The first thing you do is start with a heated pan and add FAT to it. What kind of fat? Really any works. It can be butter melted in a pan over medium heat. It can be sausage browned in small bits or it can even be bacon drippings or olive oil. It’s up to you and what you have on hand. For the sake of experimenting, let’s stick with the easiest – butter. So the next logical question is how much butter to use? If I am making a medium to large size portion for my family of five, I usually start with a 1/2 stick which is the equivalent of 4 tablespoons. I let it melt over medium heat. If you turn the heat up too high, the butter will burn so let’s try and avoid that.
The next step is adding in the flour and arming yourself with a whisk? How much flour, you ask? The same amount that you used for the butter. So let’s evenly sprinkle in 4 Tbsp. of flour over the top of the melted butter. Grab the whisk and quickly, mix together the butter and flour until it forms a thick, smooth paste.
The final step is to add in some type of liquid to begin forming the sauce. I like to say for this next step you have to be ambidextrous cause you will want a whisk in one hand stirring the flour mixture and a measuring cup of liquid in the other hand getting ready to pour it into the pan, ready to work simultaneously with both hands. Just remember the key is to keep stirring when adding in the liquid. Most often times, the liquid will be some sort of dairy such as cream, half-n-half, whole milk, etc. but it doesn’t have to stop there. It can be broth, it can be wine, or if you are desperate, water works too (although that makes for a very bland sauce). The possibilities are endless. What you have to understand about the liquid you add is how much “fat” content it has. The higher the fat content, the thicker (and tastier) your sauce will be. The lower the fat content, the thinner it will be. So now the question is how much liquid should you add? Well, that’s easy, you are going to add in the same amount as you did for the butter and flour so stick to 4 tablespoons to start but remember that you will ultimately need to add in more liquid in order to form the sauce. Right now we are just working on the base of the sauce – the roux. You will want to be armed with your whisk when you do this and you will want to pour it in slowly but quickly whisk together the liquid and the paste of flour and butter together, continuously whisking until it is completely smooth. This only takes a few seconds. Then you will slowly add in the remaining liquid whisking everything together to keep it all smooth. You will then bring the sauce to a slight boil and immediately reduce the heat to simmer. You will see as the heat rises in the pan that the sauce will begin to thicken. I like to err on the side of caution when adding in the additional liquid. I add it in small amounts at a time to achieve the desired consistency that I want for the sauce since you can always add in additional liquid later to thin it out. I know you are upset that I’m not telling you the exact amount of liquid to add but this is best learned by just watching the sauce and using common sense on how thick you want your sauce to be. Less liquid for a thicker sauce, more liquid for a thinner sauce. Don’t forget to season your sauce with kosher salt and pepper at the end.
Try the above recipe browning sausage in lieu of the butter for a simple gravy to serve over biscuits in the morning. Then get a little fancier by adding in different spices and seasonings such as red pepper flakes and thyme.
There are a lot of others things I can teach you about a roux such as dark vs. light, depth of flavor, etc. but we will save that for another day! Let me know how it goes.
Thanks again to my friend, Wendy, for suggesting the topic!