Some cooking skills, like dicing onions, flipping pancakes, or rolling burritos, may seem difficult at first, but quickly develop into muscle memory. But in my experience, learning how to redhead is not one of those skills. The process itself seems simple: add equal parts of fat and flour to a saucepan over medium-low heat, then stir until the color is even and desired. In practice, however, my redheads are pretty hit and miss.
Of course, sometimes I get it right the first time and I’m on my way to a perfect sauce, bechamel or okra. But there are times when things just keep sticking together, or the mixture gets super fine, or, worse yet, the flour burns just before it can incorporate into the fat. When that happens, I usually throw my failed attempt (along with my ego) in the trash and start over. But after spoiling food editor Christina Chaey’s Japanese curry recipe twice in a row, I realized I needed a pro’s help. Here is everything I learned:
What is a redhead?
In the simplest possible terms, a roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat, cooked together over low to medium heat to create a uniform thickening agent that is deployed in sauce recipes like this extra Bolognese lasagna. creamy, chicken andouille Gumbo and Croque Monsieur dipped in béchamel sauce.
You have options when it comes to fat, but more often than not, roux is made from neutral oil (like vegetables or canola) or unsalted butter. When used in soups, sauces, and stews, a roux provides creaminess and density, helps incorporate other fatty ingredients like cream or cheese, and generally binds things together in one. consistent end product. And the sauce, this season’s MVP, is made by adding broth and / or gravy to a roux.
As the silent “X” in their name suggests, roux are common in French cuisine – used in mother sauces like bechamel and velouté – but they also appear in dishes around the world. Redheads are an essential part of Cajun cuisine and are also the backbone of many Japanese curries, such as Winter Squash and Chaey’s Mushroom Curry and Golden Curry which inspired his recipe.
“If you look at the ingredients on the box [of Golden Curry], it’s pretty much just flour and oil, and then you have salt, sugar and curry powder, ”says Chaey. If you want to see the power of a well-made roux, add one of these beautiful yellow blocks to a pot of vegetable broth. It will disperse in seconds, turning a runny stew into a velvety, creamy sauce right before your eyes.
How can I improve my redheads?
In Chaey’s eyes, a great deal of redheading comes down to practice and intuition, but there are a few tips that can help you get there sooner.
Trust your nose
“You want to cook the flour and butter until there’s no more smell of raw flour,” she says, likening the telltale smell to pancake batter or cookie dough. . If you use butter as the fat, you will also experience the toasty, nutty smell of the milk solids turning brown (like when making brown butter). Once you reach this point— * notes to yourself * —lower the heat to avoid burning.