Many believe that roux is a French invention (and that sounds correct judging by the name). But, according to Harold McGee’s classic cookbook On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the first recorded recipe for roux comes from a fifteenth-century German cookbook, which means that roux was probably first used as a thickener in medieval times. While those first roux were made with wild boar fat and flour, contemporary roux are made with a variety of fats like butter, oil, or other rendered animal fats.Making a roux is theoretically simple: fat is combined with an equal amount of flour, and then cooked until it reaches the desired color and consistency. But making roux can be tricky for a couple of reasons. The first is that it must be stirred constantly; stop paying attention for a second, and a roux can burn. The second reason cooks have trouble with roux is that heat must stay consistent, neither too high nor too low. If the temperature is too low, a roux can take an hour to brown. Too high, and you’ll notice black flecks bubbling up to the surface, a surefire sign that the roux is burned. Once a roux begins to burn, there’s no going back; throw it out and start again.
Light roux, usually a pale, golden color, serves as the base for many classic sauces, including the béchamel and its cheesy cousin, the mornay. Dark roux, which can vary in color from peanut butter–colored to black, serves as base for a multitude of soups and stews, including many classic Cajun dishes like gumbo and étouffée. Pan drippings from roasted meats can also be used to make a roux, which makes for a pretty spectacular gravy.
There are so many delicious reasons to learn to make a roux. Here are a few of our favorites. Click though and get cooking!