ROUX, White, Blonde, Medium & Dark

Roux Colors

     Roux (pronounced "roo") is a thickening agent for soups and sauces with roots dating back more than 300 years in French cuisine. Made by cooking a flour and oil paste until the raw flavor of the flour cooks out and the roux has achieved the desired color, a properly cooked roux imparts silky-smooth body and a nutty flavor while thickening soups and sauces.
     Roux can be made with a variety of oils and animal fats. They are commonly made with vegetable oil, olive oil, or clarified butter, but can also be made with bacon grease or other rendered fats. Since an oil-based roux will separate as the flour settles to the bottom, clarified butter is the preferred fat to use when making a roux for future use, as it will harden when refrigerated, trapping the flour in suspension.
     There are four varieties of roux: white, blond, brown, and dark brown.
The different colors are a result of how long the roux is cooked; white is cooked for the shortest time, while dark brown cooks the longest. (See Photo)  White and blond roux are the most common, used to thicken sauces, soups, and chowders. Brown and dark brown roux have more flavor, but less thickening power than white or blond roux. These roux are primarily used in Cajun and Creole dishes, most notably gumbo and jambalaya.
How to make a Roux, step by step:                                                               1. Begin making the roux by melting 1 cup of clarified butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is hot enough that a pinch of flour sprinkled into it will slowly start to bubble, proceed to the next step.
3. Whisk 1-3/4 cups of flour into the clarified butter until a thick, rough paste forms. Whisk constantly while it bubbles over medium heat. As it cooks, the roux will become smooth and begin to thin.
4. The white stage is reached once the flour looses its raw smell, after about 5 minutes of cooking and stirring. Although slightly grainy in texture, it is much smoother than it was at the beginning. The mixture is bubbling vigorously and the color is a little paler than when the clarified butter and flour were first combined.
5. After about 20 minutes of continuous cooking and stirring, the roux will reach the blond stage. The bubbles are beginning to slow, and the aroma has taken on nuances of popcorn or toasted bread. The roux is now tan colored, very smooth, and thinner than it was at the white stage.
6. Brown roux will reach a peanut butter-brown color after approximately 35 minutes of cooking and stirring. Its aroma is more pronounced and sharper than the nutty nuances of blond roux. The roux is now thinner, and the bubbling has slowed even more.
7. Even darker than brown roux, the dark brown stage occurs after about 45 minutes of cooking, and is the color of melted milk chocolate. Its aroma will also mellow from the strong, roasted flavor of brown roux and will actually smell a little like chocolate. The roux is no longer bubbling, and is very thin.


Another basic sauce, like Roux, which often forms the base for numerous other sauces, like the Cheese Sauce below:                                              INGREDIENTS
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 pinch dried thyme
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
1. STOVETOP METHOD*: In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in the flour, salt and white pepper. Add cold half-and-half and COLD chicken broth all at once. Stir well. Cook, stirring frequently, at medium heat until thick. Remove from heat and stir in seasoning.
* There is a "microwave method" which I am not even going to consider here because you have so much more control when you make this on the stove, but if you want to try that recipe, you can find it at

Basic Cheese Sauce (starting with Roux)

Basic Cheese Sauce

     Making smooth, creamy cheese sauce is a breeze once you know a few simple techniques and a few important points to keep in mind:
     1. The less you heat cheese, the better. When making soup, sauce, or fondue, add the cheese last; then heat it only long enough to melt. Don't let it boil or it will become tough and curdled. Often, you can remove the pan from the burner; the residual heat will melt the cheese.
     2. Shred, crumble, or finely dice the cheese before heating to ensure quick, smooth melting. (Remember that it's much easier to shred or dice cheese when it's cold.)
     3. Allow the shredded cheese to come to room temperature before adding it to a hot mixture.
     4. Starch (such as all-purpose flour, cornstarch, or potato flour) will keep the cheese from curdling. If using all-purpose flour, add it to the mixture before the cheese; it needs to be cooked for a few minutes to remove the starchy taste.
    5. Adding an acidic ingredient such as wine or lemon juice will help prevent the cheese from becoming stringy. This is why most fondues have a base of white wine. Simply sprinkle some lemon juice over the shredded cheese before heating it.
     6. Reduced-fat cheeses have different melting characteristics than regular cheeses. They will take longer to melt and will be tougher. Be sure to shred reduced-fat cheese very finely, and allow it to melt over very low heat while stirring constantly.
Classic cheese sauce:
     You start with a béchamel sauce, a simple sauce made of butter, flour, milk,
and a few seasonings.
     To begin, make a light roux: Measure out equal amounts of butter and flour. Dice the butter into small cubes and melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Once the butter is melted, begin whisking in the flour. When all the flour is incorporated, continue stirring and cooking for a few minutes to activate the starch granules.
If you're making a white or light-colored cheese sauce, keep the heat low
enough so the roux does not brown.
     Next comes the milk. If the roux is hot, the milk should be cool, but if the roux is cool, the milk should be hot. Combining the two ingredients at different temperatures ensures that they will heat up at a moderate rate--not too fast, and not too slow--creating a velvety-smooth sauce.
     Whisk the mixture until smooth, then add seasonings if you wish. Traditional
seasonings for béchamel are diced onion, a bay leaf, a couple cloves, and a
pinch of nutmeg. (for a simple cheese sauce, just add salt and pepper)
     Allow the sauce to simmer until it has lost its "floury" taste (about 20 minutes).
Remove the pan from the heat and gently blend in the cheese. If the cheese doesn't seem to be melting, return the pan to very low heat, but watch it carefully and remove as soon as the cheese is melted.
     Once you've mastered the basics, you can create an endless variety of cheese
sauces by varying the kind of cheese you use, mixing in different herbs, spices, and veggies, and using milk, half and half, or heavy cream to alter the level of richness in the sauce.


Bearnaise Sauce

     A bit more tricky to make but so worth the trouble. You will need a double boiler. If you don't have one handy, a metal or glass bowl over a sauce pan with an inch or 2 of simmering water will do just fine.
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
1/2 c. white wine vinegar (or lemon juice if you prefer)
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup butter, melted
     1. In a heavy skillet, saute tarragon, red wine vinegar, and diced shallot over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture becomes paste-like. Remove from heat.
     2. Combine egg yolks, 1/8 cup hot water, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Cook and stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of mayonnaise. Remove the mixture from heat. Add the melted butter slowly, stirring continuously. If the mixture becomes too thick, thin with the remaining 1/8 cup of hot water. Add the tarragon, wine, vinegar, and shallot mixture and blend well. Use immediately.

Hollandaise Sauce, 6 servings

Holladaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce, 6 servings
4 egg yolks
5/8 lemon, juiced
1-1/4 teaspoons cold water
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
2/3 cup butter
1. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, cold water, salt and pepper. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Gradually whisk yolk mixture into butter. Continue whisking over low heat for 8 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Serve immediately.
     **Note: If your sauce breaks and the butter and egg begin to separate, simply remove from the heat, add a splash of cold water, and whisk very fast. This should save your Hollandaise.


Photo of Hazlenut & Sage Pesto @

     Fragrant and flavorful, pesto is pasta's perfect partner. Pesto has its origins in Liguria, Italy, where people have been making it for hundreds of years with the brilliant green basil that grows wild on the hillsides. Nowadays, flavorful, fragrant Basil is the traditional herb in pesto, but variations can be made with herbs like cilantro or mint.  Here is a sampling of a few baisc Pesto Sauces and, below that, some Pasta & Pesto ideas.  Enjoy!

  • QUICK & EASY PESTO, 16 servings

    3 cups fresh basil leaves
    1 1/2 cups pine nuts (or chopped walnuts)
    4 cloves garlic, peeled
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 cup olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    1. In a food processor, blend together basil leaves, nuts, garlic, and
    cheese. Pour in oil slowly while still mixing. Stir in salt and pepper.

  • CREAMY PESTO (w/ or w/o garlic)

    Saute' a handful of minced onion in a two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, until translucent.
    Add 1/2 c. butter and stir until melted.
    Make a slurry from 2 cups of cold milk and 2 tbsp flour, then wisk into onion mixture, until well combined and beginning to thicken. Add a cup of either Basic Pesto or Garlic Pesto - and whatever other vegetables or meat you are adding. Toss the pasta in your sauce and you're done.

  • GARLIC & BASIL PESTO, 16 servings

    3 cups chopped fresh basil
    1 cup extra virgin olive oil
    3/4 cup pine nuts
    2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    salt and pepper to taste
    1. Place the basil in a blender or food processor. Pour in about 1 tablespoon of the oil, and blend basil into a paste. Gradually add pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, chili powder, then slowly add the remaining oil, or as much as needed and continue to blend until smooth and you reach the desired consistency.


Pasta & Pesto Sauce w/ tomato

     Pesto is most commonly used as a pasta sauce.
•Since pesto has a very concentrated flavor, make a pasta sauce by reserving a cupful of the pasta cooking water when you drain the pasta.
•Return the drained pasta to the hot pan, add a tablespoonful or so of pesto, and add the water a little bit at a time until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. The starch in the water will help to thicken the sauce and allow it to coat the penne or linguine (or whatever shape you choose).
•Serve the pasta as is, or top it with chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and toasted pine nuts.
•You can also make it more filling by adding sautéed vegetables and leftover cooked chicken or ham.

REDUCING SAUCES: Homemade Teriyaki

How to Reduce Sauce:
     A sauce reduction is excellent way to thicken sauce naturally without adding any thickening agents. In this way, you concentrating the true flavors of the ingredients, rather than altering them with additional liquid and flour or other starch. As a result, you have a more intense flavor as the reduction occurs. The following method was adapted from
     1. We made a very simple teriyaki-style sauce to illustrate this method. We used 1 cup of light soy sauce, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 shallots, and a clove of garlic.
     2. Peel and roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Place these two ingredients in a pot. You are not going to caramelize the shallots and garlic in this particular method of reduction. Add the sugar and the soy sauce and turn the heat to medium-high and stir the ingredients. The sugar and soy sauce will concentrate as the mixture reduces.
     3. As the sauce begins to boil you will see it is thickening. As the bubbles become larger in the pot, watch the sauce closely and do not let the bubbles become too large or they will boil over. When the bubbles enlarge, reduce the heat to low to allow your sauce continue to cook further (deepening and strengthening its flavor).
     4. Your sauce has completed cooking when it has reached your desired
consistency and taste. Keep in mind that many sauces, especially in the cases of reduced sauces made with sugar and gelatin, will continue to thicken as they cool.
     5. Test the sauce with a spoon. If the sauce coats the spoon, the sauce will coat other ingredients in the dishes you make also. The Spoon Test is the best way to test the sauce because the temperature of the spoon will cool the sauce a bit, giving an accurate impression of the how thick the sauce will be once it leaves the hot pan and cools to the temperature at which it will be served.
     6. Strain the sauce to remove the bits of garlic and shallot. The end product is a clean, sweet, and somewhat thick sauce. This particular sauce (teriyaki) can be used while barbequing, as a marinade, or simply as a dip.


Clarified Butter

How to Clarify Butter, An easy-to-follow, step-by-step tutorial.
     "Clarifying" is the process of removing milk solids from butterfat, giving you a clear golden fat that can be heated to a higher temperature without burning than whole butter. This, combined with the fact it can be stored without going rancid, has made clarified butter the cooking fat of choice in India and South Asia for hundreds of years.
     1. To make 1 cup of clarified butter you'll need 1¼ cup of butter. (You will lose approximately 25% of the original butter's total volume when clarifying.)
     2. Place butter in a saucepan over a very low heat. Let the butter melt slowly, do not stir the butter while it is melting.
     3. As the butter melts, it will separate into three layers. The top layer is a thin layer of foam, the middle layer contains the bulk of the liquid (weighing in at about 80% of the total), and the bottom layer is where the water and most of the milk solids are. This natural separation is what makes clarifying possible.
     4. Skim the foam off the surface of the butter, discard the foam. Be cautious to avoid dipping the ladle into the butterfat while skimming, as the fat should remain intact.
      5. At this point, there are two possible methods for removing the butterfat from the water on the bottom of the pan. The method we chose to illustrate is to decant the fat from the water.
     6. Carefully and slowly pour the fat into another container. You can see the water underneath the clear yellow butterfat. If you notice any of the water slipping into the fat, you may need to re-decant your new batch of clarified butter. If there is any water in the clarified butter, and you try adding it to a hot pan, the water will immediately boil when it hits the pan, causing the hot clarified butter to splatter out of the pan and potentially burning the cook. An alternate method for separating the fat from the water is to use a ladle and skim the fat up and out of the pan, making sure not to let any of the water get into the ladle. Pour your newly
clarified butter to a separate container, and discard the water and small amount of remaining milk fat.
     7. If the clarified butter sits for a moment, you might notice more foam float to the top; use a spoon to remove this last bit of foam.


Browned Butter

How to Brown Butter:
     Add a complex and nutty flavor to your food with this classic French technique.
Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette, is made by cooking butter long enough to turn the milk solids and salt particles brown while cooking out any water present. It has a more complex flavor than melted or clarified butter. Brown butter is traditionally served with fish, but makes a delicious topping for vegetables such as brussels sprout and broccoli. It adds a deep, nutty flavor to sweet items like butterscotch pudding or cream cheese frosting.
     1. Place the butter in a pot or pan. We have chosen to use a ½ cup of butter.
     2. The temperature you use can vary. High heat will brown the butter quickly, and maintain a regular consistency. However, if you do not monitor the butter properly, the milk solids and salt particles will sink to the bottom of the pan and burn. Moderate heat allows you to keep a careful eye on the process.
     3. While the butter heats, stir continuously. In this picture, the color is just beginning to change.
     4. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color. Remove the pan from the heat. The butter will continue cooking even after you remove it from the burner. Notice the dramatic change in color: it should be nut-brown and have a toasty aroma. Overcooked butter will have a very bitter taste.
     5. Even bitter, over-browned butter is used in some traditional French dishes--it is called black butter, or beurre noir. Substitute brown butter for melted butter, or try it in these recipes.