I was raised by very country women, but not necessarily ‘southern’ women and as I advanced further into my cooking years I learned that there is a huge difference between a country cook and a southern cook. Notably, when I moved to Virginia, one thing I had never heard of was ‘roux’. And as such, I caught myself thinking “WTF is a roux?” (Hence the title.) And what’s all the hype about making a good roux?
Growing up/in my neck of the woods we called it ‘simple gravy’ and essentially it’s a fattening-ass mixture of butter or grease and flour and you brown it up on the stove top. But, many southern cooks use this simple gravy mixture as a base for many other dishes. And there is truly an art form to making different varieties of roux and making a good, proper roux is a source of pride to a good southern cook. Seriously.
Traditionally, a roux is made by slowly browning together a fat (most commonly butter) and flour in a thick bottomed pan at a low to medium temperature. The temperature of your pan, the type of fat used, the type of flour used, and the length of cook time are all important factors depending on the type of roux you need to make. Accordingly, depending on the type of dish, the recipe for the roux changes.
For better understanding, here are some very helpful links/examples of the need for different types of roux.
General info on the 4 basic types of roux and the history behind roux:
Here are some links to more specific recipes:
The very basic gumbo roux…
(And BTW , I do not necessarily agree with #5 on this list in the above link. In my opinion you can usually always fix something that’s only a ‘little bit’ burned. In the instance of a simple gumbo roux, you would fix it by adding additional butter/grease, and flour, or perhaps a cornstarch mixture, along with whatever basic seasonings were originally used to make up the base flavor (if any). Or, you could add a little stock or bouillon, plus equal parts of flour and voila – fixed!! And no one knows the damn difference!)
For understanding more complex gumbo roux…
For beef steaks:
(Side note: You will notice in some of these links that the first step of a dish is to make the roux, but I feel it important to note that roux is not always necessarily the first thing you make. Often times, a roux is made after the main part of your dish is prepared and set aside. For instance, when I am making hamburger steaks, as similar to the above article, I use the fat that has been rendered in the pan while it is still in it’s liquid form to begin my simple gravy/roux instead of butter as suggested in #1.)
(This first step in this link applies to all chowders, not just NECC, but chicken corn chowder and so on.)
And so, in summary, and to respond to the question at topic, ‘WTF is a roux?’ Well folks, my answer is that a roux is a fattening-ass southern cook’s simple gravy and apparently you can make it a bunch of different ways. Lol. And if you do it right, you should give yourself a pat on the back. So there ya have it people. 🙂