Dry roux kicks the ass of traditional roux in every way imaginable.
Okay, before we get into that, let’s establish our vocabulary here. A roux (pronounced ‘roo’, as in, ‘Rue the day!’ or ‘kanga-roo’), traditionally understood, is flour browned in oil. Roux is the thickener in a bunch of cajun and creole dishes, like gumbo or etouffee.
Roux is also famous for creating tension and lingering pain in the arms, shoulders, and wrists of cooks who must spend up to an hour constantly stirring it; if you let up, the flour burns, the gumbo is tastes like shit, you’ve wasted forty-five minutes stirring, and you fail as a human being.
But thank God, the rad dudes over at Cook’s Illustrated have applied the scientific method to roux creation, and they’ve found a better way.
WHAT THE HELL IS A DRY ROUX?
So traditional roux is flour and oil cooked painstakingly on a stovetop. Dry roux, on the other hand, is flour—no oil—cooked negligently in the oven.
Step 2: You stir once or twice over the course of an hour.
Step 3: Flavorbang.
You can also keep dry roux in a tupperware in the freezer, ready to flavorbang your supper in less time than it takes to skip a Doors song on Pandora. It’s more versatile than cajun cookbooks would have you believe; I’ve used dry roux in chicken pot pie, enchiladas… Any dish where the sauce or the broth needs a little thickening, and the taste could be a little bit deeper, that’s a dish that’s begging for a shot of dry roux.
So what makes dry roux sustainable food, Josh? Why is it important to a healthy, non-industrial food system? Well, the short answer is it’s an easy way to produce better taste and texture in home cooking. Any recipe, technique, or technology that promotes cooking from scratch is a win. Once I get my new flour sifter in the mail, I’ll be able to make roux with sifted stoneground flour, which will make this an even more nutritious and sustainable component.
MAKING AND USING DRY ROUX
So like I said, you get flour—two or three cups at a time, whatever you can stir in your skillet or dutch oven or sheet pan without it spilling. Whole wheat flour burns much more easily, so use white flour or stoneground whole wheat with the bran sifted out. Preheat your oven to 425°. Spread the flour out evenly in the pan or skillet and pop it in the oven.
Give it fifteen minutes or so, then check it. The flour on the edges should be getting brown; stir the brown into the rest of the flour and spread it back out again. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or so, no need to overdo it.
Bake another fifteen minutes, then stir again. Do this three or four times, until the flour is browned. Now you’ve got yourself a dry roux. You can keep it in an airtight container in the freezer pretty much indefinitely, or you can use it right now.
To use it, put the roux (a tablespoon or a cup or whatever you feel like you need) into a bowl. Add a ladleful of the liquid from the dish you’re making. Whisk the roux and the liquid together until fully combined. Add a bit more liquid and whisk. Keep doing that until you’ve got a thick liquid you can whisk back into the liquid you’ve been drawing from. The main danger is lumps; adding liquid to the roux a bit at a time avoids this.
So it’s easy, convenient, versatile, and knocks down legitimacy of staid traditionalism; I can’t ask for anything more in a food.