KITCHEN CATASTROPHE QUICK-TIPS
What’s up, everybody? Jon here, bringing you into a new era of entertainment: SMELL-O-VISION. Finally, you’ll be able to smell what people are raving about in cooking shows, and the world-What’s that? Excuse me, It seems one of the lab technicians is calling me. I have to take this.
This is The Big Man, Go ahead. Ahuh. Yes. I see. Very good. Well, I understand. I’ll let them know.
Well, ladies and gents, it seems that the volatile oils necessary to make smell-o-vision a success mutated in the presence of binary data, and formed a searing scourge against humanity. So that plan’s out. Instead, let’s do something 13.8% less likely to doom mankind: WEDNESDAY UPDATES.
That’s right, no longer will Kitchen Catastrophe only be a weekly occurrence. Now you’ll have two posts a week to read and share with your friends. However, in the interest of broadening our horizons a bit, Wednesday posts aren’t generally going to be direct recipes. Instead, they’ll be more generally educational. Tips on random ingredients, or cooking techniques, food history, etc. Interesting information like the fact that Kale, Broccoli, and Cauliflower are all from the same plant, selectively bred to emphasize different traits that cause the children around the world sorrow.
This child is weirdly moving in his suffering. Like, I feel like this is a shot from a pro-vaccine PSA.
Today’s topic: ROUX. What are they? How do they work? If you prick them, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh? If you wrong them, shall they not revenge? That joke only works for fans of Shakespeare AND cooking. So, me. I wrote that joke for myself.
Bad Boy Basics
Pronounced “Roo”, a roux (which is also how you spell the plural, despite saying it differently: “Roos”) is a very simple mixture: Flour, and fat, in equal proportion. It forms the basic thickening and in some cases flavor of many sauces, soups and stews, and other dishes. Macaroni and Cheese uses a roux, if you do it right. Hell, even if you don’t. What do you think the butter you toss into Kraft is for?
As stated, the basic recipe is a 1:1 ratio of fat to flour BY WEIGHT. Most people don’t have the scales to measure it, so if you’re using measuring cups, you actually want closer to a 4:7 ratio, but most people just round to 1:2. So for every tablespoon of butter or oil, use between 1.5 and 2 of flour; you’ll be golden. If you’re making bigger batches, you can be more precise, and use a cup of fat to 1 ¾ cups of flour.
Some other quick roux tips: different fats make subtly different roux, most notably in terms of storage. Yes, storage. Using butter (or, even better, clarified butter) lets you cool the roux down and store it to use in future dishes. Further, you ALWAYS want to ‘cross the streams’, in that you should add cool liquids to hot roux and vice-versa. Adding hot to hot causes the roux to gelatinize and clump up.
So let’s talk about our three contenders.
You’d Need a Heart of Glass to Hate this Roux
I’m going to do something slightly controversial, and combine two technically different roux into one…roux. Jesus, that’s weird. See, there’s some disagreement on the exact number of roux types. It’s between three and five. But three’s an easier number to work with, so I picked that. So, we’re going to talk about a blonde roux, and kind of slam it together with the idea of a ‘white’ roux.
Basically, roux is divided by the color it turns as you cook it longer and longer. A Blonde roux is the most common roux, cooked around 20 minutes over medium heat. A White roux is the shortest, cooked anywhere from a single minute to 5 minutes. They both serve the same purpose: thickening a coming sauce or soup without lending much flavor. White roux are basically just thickeners that have the advantage of adding a nicer mouth-feel than cornstarch slurry.
It’s like cookie dough! Without the sugar. So, something else to make children sad.
This is the kind of roux that makes Mac and Cheese, Sausage Gravy, or Clam Chowder.
Now, white roux basically only add thickness, while the true blonde roux adds a little extra flavor. You toast the flour particles a little, and they add a little more warmth to the dish. Most things that use a white roux COULD be made with a Blonde roux without going off the rails. The blonde roux is preferred for several recipes, like Veloute, a French veal sauce
As a quick tangent, some of you might be irritated that I keep spelling blond with an ‘e’ at the end. Well, that’s because I characterize roux as female. That’s the official difference between blond and blonde: whether the subject is male or female. (Technically this is only true of British English, and American does it slightly different, but sometimes, you gotta break the rules to have fun.) It’s pronounced the same either way, just spelled differently, so the exact OPPOSITE of this weird “roux/roux” thing.
It’s gonna be okay, random statue. Also, how did you get in? Are you one of those Angels?
Take it to Brown Town
Forgive Title Jon, he loves his juvenile humor; a tragic side effect of his pithy medium. Anyway, the second roux is the brown roux. This guy takes around 35 minutes to create, and is where the roux as flavor aspect starts to come to the fore. See, the longer you darken a roux, the more flavor it adds. But the less thickening it does. 2 cups of white roux is going to thicken marginally more food than 2 cups of blonde, but is DEFINITELY going to thicken more than Brown roux. You can actually just plainly see it, as roux get more liquid the longer you cook them.
It looks like peanut butter! Give it to the children! (Don’t give it to the children, it’s currently 265 degrees)
But in exchange, the brown roux is adding much more caramel and toasted flavor to the dish. Brown roux is the base of many brown sauces, and can form the thickener for practically any dark soup. This is also the lightest roux most Cajuns would accept for Gumbo. Some people use it as a simple spread with diced garlic on French bread.
It’s A BRICK (dun dun duh nuh) HOUSE
The Last type of roux is the ‘dark brown’ or ‘brick’ roux. This guy looks like dark bricks, or melted milk chocolate. And trust me, you’ll know when he’s coming. The transition from white to blonde is long and slow. Once you hit brown, you start darkening at an exponential rate. I feel like there’s a racist joke to be made there, but I am above some things.
In this picture, Jon realizes that he needs to include the white walls, or his camera’s white balance kept making the roux brighter. STUPID JON.
This guy thickens the least, but has the most flavor. THIS is what makes good Gumbo, and is the most difficult roux. 45 minutes of constant stirring on the stove, or, as I saw in one recipe, an hour and a half in the oven, this is the hardest roux because if any part of the roux burns, it ruins the whole mix, so you have to spend 45 minutes not making a single mistake. Never leaving your stove-top. That may sound tiresome, but consider that, for like, twelve to sixteen years of your life, this is exactly what the school system trained you to do: sit still making fairly constant wrist movements and not screwing up. You got this.
Today’s quick-tip is brought to you by sheer random selection. If you liked it, share it with your friends.
NEXT TIME: I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW. MAYBE SOMETHING ELSE TOTALLY NEW.