French cooking is commended for its smart techniques and simple approaches to make each food component shine in the entire dish. Notably, the French are distinguished for their approach to sauce-making, and behind every sauce bechamel, sauce veloute and sauce espagnole is the magic of the roux.
A roux is a thickening agent made of cooked flour and fat. Clarified butter is a favorite pick as the fat source but some cooking traditions also use lard or the rendered fat from meat. Roux is the foundation of many sauces particularly the three major sauces in French cuisine. Because flour is a good thickener, cooking it in fat takes out the floury taste and instead replaces it with the hint of the butter or the rendered meat.
Making roux is very simple; actually, many dishes already integrate roux at the beginning of the cooking process. To make roux, heat your fat source over high heat and then add an equal amount (plus a few teaspoons, if needed) of flour. Whisk the two ingredients until the mixture starts to thin and bubble. Lower the heat and let it cook until the roux starts to smell toasty. Stir occasionally for two more minutes.
The three mother sauces in French cooking uses roux as a foundation of its thickness and creamy flavor. Sauce bechamel or the French white sauce is one of the most common roux-based sauces. You can try making bechamel sauce when you make your favorite macaroni and cheese recipes. Try this classic recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese or step up this classic American favorite by making Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. Take note than when bechamel is folded in with cheese, it becomes a Mornay sauce.
Sauce veloute is another classic French sauce that uses roux. A veloute is basically roux mixed with a light stock. A famous dish using this sauce is the chicken veloute. Sauce espagnole combines brown roux with veal stock or water and other solids like pieces of beef and vegetables. Other version of sauce espagnole uses tomato paste. Try this recipe Espagnole Sauce which is a perfect topping for meats. A great example is Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms in Espagnole Sauce.
Although roux is known as a French sauce technique, other world cuisines also use roux as a sauce base. Gumbo, for instance, also uses roux to add a certain thickness and yummy consistency. Try Eula Maes Seafood Gumbo and you’ll appreciate how this tasty bowl of comfort is taken to the next level thanks to the roux. You can also use roux as a sauce base for any dish you whip up in your kitchen. Take a page from this Au Gratin Confetti Potatoes recipe which uses roux as the foundation of the yummy cheese sauce topping.