A Roux is the classical basis for any and all sauces.  Getting this right can make or break a sauce just as easily as any other stage in its cooking.

You need an equal weight of plain flour and butter.  It’s better to use butter and not margarine, or use a clarified butter (such as Ghee), full fat oils or animal fat.

I have to admit, in my college days I tried to use margarine, but it doesn’t taste the same and you need a greater quantified of it to achieve something even close to that of using butter.  I achieved the best results once I started using Ghee, the extra flavour this gave the roux is worth the effort and it can cook at a higher temperature than butter without burning.

You need the same weight of flour and butter to make a roux, the quantity you need will vary depending on how much you need to thicken your sauce.  Work on the basis that 45 g (1½ oz) will thicken 1 pint (600 ml) of liquid.

To make a roux

  1. melt the fat in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat – you do not want this to burn this at any stage
  2. when the fat has melted add the flour
  3. using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the fat to make a paste
  4. continue heating until you have achieved the desired roux

It is important to cook out the taste of the flour.  You want it to form a paste when mixed.

There are basically three types of roux

  • White – this is actually yellow in colour and will form the basis of your white sauces, cheese, parsley, etc.
  • Blonde – heat the fat/flour paste for a couple of minutes and it will start to turn a creamy beige colour.  Use it for cream sauces and soups.
  • Brown – the roux starts to turn brown and it will develop a nutty flavour.  This is ideal for brown sauces, chicken, fish stocks and wine sauces.

One of the advantages of using a roux is you can make the roux in advance and store it until you need it.

  • either freeze it and defrost before using
  • or store it in your refrigerator and add a quantity as and when you need to thicken a sauce

If you’re going to store it make sure it cools rapidly beforehand and don’t leave it out once it is at room temperature.  Pack it away as quickly as possible in an air-tight container.  One way of storing it is to treat it like a herb or spiced butter, chill, then roll it into a sausage shape, wrap it in cling-film and cut off what you need as and when you need it or do so before you freeze it – you can end up with coin sized pieces of roux.  It will last for a very long time either in your refrigerator or the freezer, as long as the container is air-tight.

The roux can be re-used either hot or cold.  If you store a white roux then it’s possible to convert that into a blonde or brown roux by re-heating.  I think it’s best to defrost in the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature just before using and re-heat gently to the stage you require.

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