Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of writing these blogs is receiving comments and suggestions from readers and subscribers. Some are sent to me privately, and some are sent via the Comment link at the top of each Blog page. I enjoy both, but particularly those that are posted via the Comment option. Those are public, and available for everyone to read.
You may recall my mentioning before that I have (and have had) many relatives who are very accomplished in the kitchen. One of these wonderful folks, my cousin, Bill, is (among many other things) a professional chef. He posted a comment on my blog about Thanksgiving Day Dinner. I hope you will take the time to read it.
Autumn in Michigan!
There is another reason for making special note of Bill’s comments – namely, his advice on preparing a roux (pronounced “roo”). As you know, a roux is the proper way to thicken a sauce. (Who said it was the “proper” way? Why, the French, of course!) Bill differentiates between a French roux and a roux. He explains that butter is the differentiating factor – a French roux is prepared with butter and flour, while a (non-French?) roux is prepared with a fat other than butter and flour.
Frankly, I did not know this. I knew various fats could be used, but I was not aware that each type of roux had a unique name. This caused me to attempt to learn more about preparing the proper roux, and my findings prompted me to write this blog. Spoiler alert: The remaining portion of this blog might fall into the category of Comic Relief! I’m not sure how serious I can be about what I discovered.
First, I learned that a “proper” roux consists of equal portions of a fat and flour. I thought I knew that all along. What I didn’t realize is that equal parts means by weight, not by volume. That was my first error. Butter, like most other liquid fats, weighs about ½ ounce per tablespoon. A tablespoon of King Arthur’s All-Purpose flour (my personal favorite) weighs only about ¼ ounce (actually 0.2656 ounces). That, of course, means the ratio of flour to fat volumetrically is 2 to 1 – not 1 to 1 as I always thought, and as you can see if you check my recipe for Cheese Sauce (as just one example).
The comedy begins, however, when one looks at the recipes that follow online definitions of “roux”. After citing the equal portions by weight rule, several sites proceeded to offer recipes calling for 1 tablespoon of flour for each tablespoon of fat. Of the several sites I examined, only 1 in 3 got it right! The user comments on many of these sites added more humor. For example, more than one user was upset that their grandmother’s recipe for preparing a roux using equal portions (by volume!) was being challenged.
My takeaway from all this is that, proper or not, there is more than one way to prepare a roux – even after you have decided whether to use butter or another fat, or a combination of fats. My 1 to 1 ratio by volume has never failed me, but I assure you I will try the 1 to 1 ratio by weight at my next opportunity – and, I will of course report my findings here.
In the meantime, I invite all of you to share any thoughts or suggestions – on this or any other topic – via the Comment link on each blog page. I look forward to hearing from you.
P.S. A few hours after posting the blog above, I decided to try making a gravy using weight equivalent amounts of butter and flour. I started with 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of butter and 4 tablespoons (1 ounce) of King Arthur's All-Purpose flour. That cooked over medium low heat for five minutes. Instead of the viscous liquid I experience with volumetric equivalents of flour and fat, weight equivalents produced something more akin to mashed potatoes. Constant stirring was required to prevent burning, even at this relatively low temperature. Carefully following Cousin Bill's instructions, I then added 2 cups of beef stock. After reaching the boiling point, this produced a very smooth but also very viscous gravy. I decided to add another quarter cup of stock, which satisfied my preference for the gravy's consistency. My bottom line: nothing really changed except the amount of gravy produced per tablespoon of fat. The result was delicious, but then so were my earlier versions. There was just less of it before!
Consequently, I have decided (tentatively at least) to not change any of the recipes that I have posted earlier that call for preparing a roux. Again, I invite your candid comments.