Thickened by a White Roux

It’s been a hot minute since there was a How To up on here, or even an article for that matter, for which I apologize.  So I thought I’d take a step back for today’s How To  and teach you how to make something simple to complete your gravies this holiday season.  Roux is the best way of thickening and turning liquids into sauces and soup bases, which has seemingly endless combinations.  Some examples are your favorite chicken pot pie filling, gumbo, demi-glace, bechamel, and so on and so on.  What 2 ingredients do you need?  Fat and flour, primarily butter or clarified butter are used, due to their consistent results but you could indeed use things like bacon or salt pork fat, especially for cajun/creole style brick roux.

Roux come in many different colors, and what color you want depends on the recipe you’re making as well as the duration you cook the roux for.  An example is a bechamel calls for a white roux, so you just combine the fat and flour before mixing in your milk, a veloutte(for your favorite chicken pot pie filling) started with a blonde roux so you cook your flour/fat mixture a little longer, and gumbo/jambalaya call for a brick roux so you cook it until it’s brick red almost burnt before adding your stocks.  so for today’s example we’ll do a bechamel.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 TBS Butter, melted
  • 1 TBS AP Flour
  • 1 Quart Whole Milk
  • 1 TBS Salt
  • 2 TSP White Pepper, Ground
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 TSP Shallot, diced
  • 1 Thyme Sprig
  • 1 TSP Parsley Stems
  • 1 TSP Black Pepper, whole
  • Cheesecloth
  • 4″ Twine

RECIPE

  1. Place black peppercorns, parsley stems, thyme sprig, and bay leaf in cheesecloth, roll it up and seal it with twine
  2. On a medium slope sided pan add your butter over medium heat
  3. Slowly whisk the flour into the butter
  4. It will get thicker, be sure to whisk continually, when you’ve incorporated all of the flour the paste should turn into little chunks of what could be dough
  5. Slowly whisk in your milk, just a little in the beginning, incorporating it completely with the flour and butter
  6. Start adding the milk in a steady stream until the sauce has reached a nape consistency (Nape is when the sauce coats the back of a spoon, and doesn’t break when you drag your finger across)
  7. Add your shallots, salt, pepper, and the sachet(the cheesecloth with the stuff in it)
  8. Simmer over low heat for 25 minutes too cook out the flour
  9. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.  If the sauce is too thick, add more milk, if it’s too thin, continue reducing until nape
  10. Strain the sauce if you don’t want the shallots in there, or you can leave them in, but be sure to remove the cheesecloth

Add Cheese and it's in a Mornay Sauce

What are you going to do with your bechamel sauce?  Well, if you add cream to it with a whole bunch of black pepper you’ll have a southern style biscuit gravy, and if at the very end you add cheese, whisking to melt it, you’ll have a mornay sauce that you can pour on macaroni noodles to make mac n’ cheese!

I hope this How To has helped add another tool to your culinary arsenal.  One of my favorite uses of a roux is making veloutes, which are incredible for cream of anything soups.  A great example is getting a bunch of dried mushrooms, throwing them in a pot of warm water, bringing it to a simmer for a half hour.  Pureeing the whole thing until it’s smooth, then adding in veloute to get the consistency of soup you want, then strain it, and you’ll have a smooth creamy mushroom soup, and using the veloute allows you dial up or down the intensity of the mushroom in the dish.  And of course, the whole reason for writing about roux was to help you make some incredible turkey gravies.  So you make a veloute, where you use turkey drippings instead of butter, then mix with flour and cook about 2 minutes before adding chicken stock, and you can add as much turkey drippings as you like after that (keeping in mind you don’t want a super greasy gravy)!