A dark or Red Roux (pronounced roo) is what gives my Jambalaya, below (as well as other classic dishes) its indescribable flavor. Try this with caution if you’ve never made a roux – the nutty flavor will haunt you to the rest of your days and once you’ve had a great roux in a dish…well, there’s no going back.
My first roux of this type was made over a campfire in my old cast iron skillet…not just any campfire, though. One we struggled to keep going as the snow melted around it, on a beautiful January day, not far from Gooseberry Falls. Members of the group came, sat, chatted and drifted off, replaced by others, but there is no rushing a roux.
Wait a minute. Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota? You’re a Northerner? How could I possibly know how to make a Roux? Experience Mon Cher. Plus, if I could make my first roux under those conditions, I’m pretty sure you can make one with no problem if I talk you through it. (photo is a frozen Gooseberry Falls)
Two ingredients and time – that’s all it takes to make a roux. And a good cast iron pan, or at least a heavy bottomed one, will make the job easier.
A couple of things you’ll want to consider:
- Most roux are made with an oil/flour combination, but a roux can also be made with any kind of rendered fat, lard, oil, grease from bacon, butter, etc.
- I typically make the roux by itself and then add it as an ingredient to a recipe. Some make the roux and then fry ingredients right in it. I feel adding the roux lessens the possibility it may get too hot and possibly burn while I’m cooking other ingredients.
So don’t rue the day (sorry, couldn’t help myself) you made your Jambalaya with canned tomatoes or a paprika base…try it this way. I typically make a larger amount of roux than I need, maximizing my time, and store it in the fridge. It will literally keep for months, and I understand it can be frozen.
If you’re a fan of great Louisiana cooking, you may wish to check out my fabulous Red Beans and Rice, too.
- 1 cup oil/fat/clarified butter
- 1 cup flour
Warm oil in a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add flour carefully (it can spatter and sputter) stirring with a whisk to dissolve clumps. Make certain your whisk fits into the corners of the pan, and switch over to, or alternate between, a large spoon if not. Turn the heat to medium low. Bubbles, rather small, should be forming but it should not be spattering. Stir constantly at this point, as the roux begins to thicken.
After a few minutes, the roux will begin to lose its floury look, the bubbles will begin to diminish. Lower the heat so only a few bubbles are forming. At this point it is possible to leave the roux for a few seconds to do small tasks (and I do mean seconds – do not walk away at any point in the cooking process or there could be terrible results and/or fire!) and it is very helpful to have a small plate handy to set the spoon or whisk – if left in the pot, it may become too hot to handle; when it needs to be stirred, it needs to be stirred, and a roux can easily burn in the short amount of time it takes to grab a hot pad or another whisk.
After about 15 minutes or so, the roux will begin to be noticeably darker, blonde in color, and much thinner. It’s normal to see some separation between the flour and the oil, and it is important to keep stirring so the flour doesn’t settle to the bottom of the pan, sit in one place too long and burn. At this point, there will be very few to no bubbles, and that’s ok. If you’re up to standing and giving the pan constant attention, the heat could go up just a smidge. If you would like to be able to still walk away a few seconds here and there, just keep it where it’s at. My opinion: slow and steady is best.
In about 20 to 25 minutes, it will reach the brown stage and begin to smell “nutty” or “toasty.” Generally it will be finished and to the dark stage around 30 to 35 minutes or so. Even when it’s done and you’ve turned down the heat, do not leave the hot roux in the hot pan without continuing to stir; it will be at risk of burning. Once it has cooled down a bit, you’re fine.
- The lower heat and stirring are important – if any of the roux develops dark spots, the entire batch is ruined and there is no saving it. It will often look as if black pepper has been tossed into the pan. Toss the roux, clean your pan and start over, as it will ruin the flavor of any dish you add it to. It is very possible to stop stirring, do a quick task of a few seconds and return to the roux, especially in the middle of the cooking time. As you develop a feel for the rate of cooking and timing, this becomes easier. The roux, however, can burn in seconds, especially in the corners of the pan.
- Almost everyone is familiar with a “white” roux, often used in white sauces or to thicken items. The darker rouxs are simply cooked longer, but the darker the roux becomes, the less thickening power it has. Roux at its lightest, is white, then ranges to blonde, then brown and finally dark.
- Roux keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar – if placed warm into a canning jar, the lid will “seal.” It does separate, and should be stirred back together. Make sure to label, or someone may come across it and pitch it, wondering what on earth it is!