M aking roux is not nearly as difficult as it may sound and can be a serene experience. Depending on skill and speed, creating a light “blonde” roux (also the beginning of a béchamel sauce) can take a few minutes, although it can require at least half an hour of diligent stirring over a very low heat to completely cook the raw flour flavor out, and a dark roux can require up to 45 minutes to an hour. Some experienced chefs can do it quickly over a higher heat, but I wouldn’t recommend it. When they say don’t try this at home, no one is kidding. The great news is that roux freezes beautifully. So make a large batch, cool it,
then portion it into small containers and freeze it for future use. A roux is nothing more than flour browned in oil or fat, and it delivers much more flavor than that would suggest. The raw- flour taste is eliminated in the final product, and the chemical reaction created by the flour browning in the hot oil imparts a nutty, smoky flavor that deepens as the roux becomes darker. Some cooks prefer a thicker roux, using more flour than oil. The language of roux pertains to its different hues, which can range from a barely colored tan to the color of peanut butter and through café au lait to dark mahogany. Before choosing the
oil or fat, decide on the flavor and color of roux you’re seeking. For example, a blonde roux’s flavor is more subtle but has more thickening power than a dark roux. The appropriate oil is anything from vegetable oil, olive oil, or canola oil to bacon grease, Crisco, or lard. Butter burns easily at low temperatures, so unless it is clarified and the solids skimmed off, it will not work easily for a darker roux. While white all-purpose flour is the norm, whole-wheat flour imparts a lovely nutty flavor. The one-to-one ratio of oil and flour is standard, although some cooks prefer a bit more flour than oil, as much as half a cup of flour on a one-cup-to-one-cup measurement.