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Roux (//) is flour and fat cooked together and used to thicken sauces. The fat is butter in French cuisine, but may be lard or vegetable oil in other cuisines. The roux is used in three of the mother sauces of classical French cooking: béchamel sauce, velouté sauce, and espagnole sauce. Clarified butter, vegetable oils, bacon drippings or lard are commonly used fats. It is used as a thickener for gravy, other sauces, soups and stews. It is typically made from equal parts of flour and fat by weight.
In Cajun cuisine, roux is made with bacon fat or oil instead of butter and dark brown in color, which lends much richness of flavor, albeit less thickening power. Central European cuisine uses lard (in its rendered form) or more recently vegetable oil instead of butter for the preparation of roux (which is called zápražka in Slovak, jíška in Czech, zasmażka in Polish, zaprška in Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian, "zaprazhka" or "запръжка" in Bulgarian, rántás in Hungarian and Mehlschwitze in German). Further, Japanese Curry, or karē (カレー?), is made from a roux made by frying yellow-curry powder, butter or oil, and flour together. The French term roux has become a loan-word in Japanese, rū (ルー), or more specifically karērū (カレールー curry roux?). Roux (meyane) has been used in Ottoman and Turkish cuisine since at least the 15th century.
The fat is heated in a pot or pan, melting it if necessary. Then the flour is added. The mixture is stirred until the flour is incorporated and then cooked until at least the point where a raw flour taste is no longer apparent and the desired colour has been reached. The final colour can range from nearly white to nearly black, depending on the length of time it is over the heat and its intended use. The end result is a thickening and flavoring agent.
Roux is most often made with butter as the fat base, but it may be made with any edible fat. In the case of meat gravies, fat rendered from meat is often used. In regional American cuisine, bacon is sometimes rendered to produce fat to use in the roux. If clarified butter is not available, vegetable oil is often used when producing dark roux, as it does not burn at high temperatures, as whole butter does.
Darker roux are cooked longer, and add a distinct nutty flavor to a dish. They may be called "blond", "peanut-butter", "brown" or "chocolate" roux depending on their color.
Swabian (southwest German) cooking uses a darker roux for its "brown broth" (braune Brühe), which, in its simplest form, consists of nothing more than lard, flour, and water, with a bay leaf and salt for seasoning. Dark roux is often made with vegetable oils, which have a higher smoke point than butter, and are used in Cajun and Creole cuisine for gumbos and stews. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has; a chocolate roux has about one-fourth the thickening power, by weight, of a white roux. A very dark roux, just shy of burning and turning black, has a distinctly reddish color and is sometimes referred to as "brick" roux.
Staka (στάκα) is a type of roux particular to Cretan cuisine. It is prepared by cooking goat milk cream over a low flame with wheat flour or starch: the protein-rich part of the butterfat coagulates with the flour or starch and forms the staka proper, which is served hot. It is generally eaten dipping bread in it, occasionally served over French fries.
The fatty part separates to form stakovoutyro, staka butter, which is kept for later use and has a faint cheesy flavor. Staka butter is used in Cretan pilaf (piláfi), commonly served at weddings.
Cooks can substitute for roux by adding a mixture of water and wheat flour to a dish that needs thickening, since the heat of boiling water will release the starch from the flour; however, this temperature is not high enough to eliminate the floury taste. A mixture of water and flour used in this way is colloquially known as “cowboy roux”, and in modern cuisine it is called a white wash, but is used infrequently since it imparts a flavor to the finished dish that a traditional haute cuisine chef would consider unacceptable. Cornflour (known as cornstarch in the United States) can be used instead of wheat flour, as less is needed to thicken, it imparts less of the raw flour taste, and it also makes the final sauce more shiny.
As an alternative to roux, which is high in fat and very energy-dense, some Creole chefs have experimented with toasting flour without oil in a hot pan as an addition to gumbo. Cornstarch mixed with water (slurry), arrowroot, and other agents can be used in place of roux as well. These items do not contribute to the flavor of a dish, and are used solely for thickening liquids. More recently, many chefs have turned to a group of naturally occurring chemicals known as hydrocolloids. In addition to being flavorless and possessing the ability to act as a thickening agent, the resulting texture is thought by some to be superior, and only a small amount is required for the desired effect.
- Berolzheimer, Ruth (1942). The American Woman's Cook Book. New York: Garden City Publishing. p. 307.
- Muhammed bin Mahmûd-ı Şirvânî (2005). 15. yüzyıl Osmanlı mutfağı. Gökkubbe. ISBN 978-975-6223-84-0.
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- Alton Brown (1999-08-25). "Gravy Confidential". Good Eats. Season 1. Episode 108. (transcript). Food Network.
- Folse, John D. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine. Gonzales, LA: Chef John Folse & Co. Pub. ISBN 0-9704457-1-7. Troubleshooting roux (p. 130) Oil-based roux (pp. 130-131), Butter roux: the classical and Creole roux (pp. 132-133). Includes color illustrations and recipes.
- Wuerthner, Terri Pischoff (November 2006). "First You Make a Roux". Gastronomica. 6 (4): 64–68. doi:10.1525/gfc.2006.6.4.64. Distinguishes history of classical French, Creole, and Cajun varieties of roux, with color illustrations of blond, peanut butter, and chocolate roux and detailed oil-based recipe, variations of proportions, chemistry, and storage techniques. Definitive.
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