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ROUX la la!

This classic combination of equal parts fat to flour forms the base of sauces in many cultures.  In France, it's classically butter and flour, but in creole and cajun cuisine, it's simply vegetable oil and flour.  Traditionally Roux is cooked on the stovetop - it's a bit of a labor of love as it requires care and attention every 10 minutes (translation - stirring).  One of my culinary pals suggested I make a roux in the oven instead - she swore it would yield the same results, in the same time frame, with much less attention needed by moi!  So I put this theory to the test. 

I used 2 identical pans, weighed the same amount of flour (1 cup) and the same volume of fat (1 cup of vegetable oil) and prepared one roux in an oven set at 350 degrees and one on the stovetop.  My Goal:  a dark, mahogany roux in 90 minutes or less.  90 minutes!!!??! Well, if you can walk and chew gum or look at your smartphone, you will be able to make a roux AND prep for your gumbo, do your laundry, call a friend, or catchup on  your favorite show.  Let's see what happened!

 
 I started with 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup vegetable oil.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the roux with a whisk or heatproof spoon.   Why 350? vegetable oil will break down at 375 and above, lending a burnt and nasty taste to your roux. Think low and slow brings on the flavor.

I started with 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup vegetable oil.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the roux with a whisk or heatproof spoon. 

Why 350? vegetable oil will break down at 375 and above, lending a burnt and nasty taste to your roux. Think low and slow brings on the flavor.

 On your mark, get set, go!  When cooking roux on the stovetop, heat should be no higher than medium - I cooked mine medium to medium-low....shoot for a few bubbles, not an army.  If cooking the roux in the oven, put it in, uncovered at 350.

On your mark, get set, go!

When cooking roux on the stovetop, heat should be no higher than medium - I cooked mine medium to medium-low....shoot for a few bubbles, not an army.

If cooking the roux in the oven, put it in, uncovered at 350.

  15 minutes:   The rouxs are equal in color.  At this point, they are called "white" roux for obvious reasons.  You could use roux at this point to thicken a white sauce, milk gravy or cheese sauce or a light seafood dish or chowder.

15 minutes:

The rouxs are equal in color.  At this point, they are called "white" roux for obvious reasons.  You could use roux at this point to thicken a white sauce, milk gravy or cheese sauce or a light seafood dish or chowder.

  30 minutes:   The oven baked roux has not changed color. The one on the stove is giving off a nutty aroma, is light tan, and officially designated a "blonde" roux.  This one has a bit more depth of flavor and its uses are similar to a white roux.

30 minutes:

The oven baked roux has not changed color. The one on the stove is giving off a nutty aroma, is light tan, and officially designated a "blonde" roux.  This one has a bit more depth of flavor and its uses are similar to a white roux.

  45 minutes:   It's clear that the oven roux on the left still is blonde, while the stovetop roux is deepening in color, verging on becoming "brown roux."

45 minutes:

It's clear that the oven roux on the left still is blonde, while the stovetop roux is deepening in color, verging on becoming "brown roux."

 Depending on who you speak with, when roux has reached at least the color of peanut butter, it is considered light brown and will contain more flavor than its blonde counterpart.

Depending on who you speak with, when roux has reached at least the color of peanut butter, it is considered light brown and will contain more flavor than its blonde counterpart.

  60 minutes:   The baked roux isn't even coming close to the rich brown roux that we see on the right.  This darker brown variation will lend tons of flavor to your gumbo.  The down side to a long-cooked roux is that the starches in the flour start to break down and are less apt to thicken as effectively as a lighter roux, but do lend a ton of flavor. The solution? Add more roux to your stock, or use gumbo file, or okra to punch up the thickening power.

60 minutes:

The baked roux isn't even coming close to the rich brown roux that we see on the right.  This darker brown variation will lend tons of flavor to your gumbo.  The down side to a long-cooked roux is that the starches in the flour start to break down and are less apt to thicken as effectively as a lighter roux, but do lend a ton of flavor. The solution? Add more roux to your stock, or use gumbo file, or okra to punch up the thickening power.

  90 minutes:   I combined both roux and continued cooking on the stovetop until the 90 minute mark.  This, to me, is the holy grail of roux! - deep, dark, rusty, full of complex nutty aromas.  Let it cool for a few hours in the fridge and then freeze in ice cube trays for future use.  You'll have an ever ready source of flavor for any soups, stews, meaty sauces or gumbos you create!

90 minutes:

I combined both roux and continued cooking on the stovetop until the 90 minute mark.  This, to me, is the holy grail of roux! - deep, dark, rusty, full of complex nutty aromas.  Let it cool for a few hours in the fridge and then freeze in ice cube trays for future use.  You'll have an ever ready source of flavor for any soups, stews, meaty sauces or gumbos you create!