Mac and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

See that?

Yeah, I know it’s big as day and you can’t miss it.

That would be macaroni and cheese.  Bubbly, brown crusty, fresh-from-the-oven macaroni and cheese.  Trust me, it was a thing of beauty.

How did that happen, you ask? Good question – because I’m going to tell you! But we’re going to have to rewind a bit.

Today is a very special day! It’s a day I’ve been talking about and hinting about and promising for months.  It’s the launch of the Cooking Basics series!

Woot!

What better way to kick-off Cooking Basics than to cover an everyday technique, the result of which has many applications? Once prepared, you can use it to make all sorts of gravies and sauces.  Of course I’m talking about a roux.

Roux is nothing more than a hot, melted fat mixed with flour and heated.  This substance then thickens up liquids like stock or milk.  I’m no Alton Brown so don’t expect, like, a puppet show involving molecules and proteins and all sorts of stuff.  Just remember:

Hot fat + flour = roux

Roux = thickening agent

The first step in this macaroni and cheese, other than cooking the macaroni (this is, uh, pretty important), is to make the cheese sauce.  And the first step in the cheese sauce is…you guessed it!…making a roux.

The recipe called for a stick of butter, or a half cup, and the same amount of flour.  This is not rare – the components of a roux generally work in a one-to-one ratio.

So one stick of butter was melted in my medium saucepan, then I started adding 1/2 cup of flour…

…until it was all in there.  Generally you should be gentle and sprinkly and whatnot.  But not me.  I was trying to take photos.  So everybody in the pool at once.

Then, working over medium heat so as to not burn the flour, stir stir stir until the flour and butter are well combined and you have a paste.

This paste will bubble and sizzle as the flour cooks and loses its floury taste.  The roux does not need to be cooked for very long – 2 or 3 minutes, tops.  This is most commonly called a “blonde” roux.  You don’t want the roux to start darkening, as this will discolor the sauce and lend a different flavor (this is desired in certain recipes – just not here!).  You also want to make sure to cook a butter-based roux over a medium heat so as not to scorch the butter.

Once your roux is ready for liquid, add it sloooooooowly and whisk or stir constantly.  If your roux is hot, as this will be, make sure the liquid is not too hot – warm or even room temperature is the way to go.  As for me, I like to add my liquid in batches and make sure it’s fully incorporated before I add more – this lessens the likelihood of lumps in my sauce or gravy.  If you pour it all in at once without constant whisking you’ll end up with little flour balls floating in liquid.  Which is not fun for anyone.

As the mixture heats, it will thicken – give it time! You’ll be surprised at what a difference a little flour can make.

And that’s it! That’s all there is to making a roux.  The first step to baking macaroni and cheese…the secret to thickening stew…to making cream-based sauces or even soups…to creating savory gravy…

Stay tuned for the rest of the macaroni and cheese recipe! And feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email (check out the Contact section above) to ask any questions or even suggest a topic I should cover in this series.

Sharing with Skip To My Lou, Delightfully Dowling, Sumo’s Sweet Stuff, Mom’s Crazy Cooking, Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, Hey What’s For Dinner Mom, A Southern Fairytale, 33 Shades of Green & Balancing Beauty and Bedlam - check out all of the amazing links there!

  44 Responses to “Cooking Basics: Roux”

  1. Waiting for more… and hungry for mac and cheese now!

  2. This is a great series for a beginning cook. I am a huge roux fan.

    • Thanks for the compliment! I’m really hoping to expand and cover a lot of topics so folks can feel more comfortable in the kitchen. :)

  3. Oh, how cool! I love cooking, but don’t do it nearly enough because I dont’ reall know the basics. I KNOW them, but couldn’t tell you that I made a roux, you know? I’ve made it, just didn’t know what I was making. Most cooking seems to boil down (no pun intended)(OK, pun intended) to a handful of basic skills. No one should say “i can’t cook” when you make it that simple. Looking forward to the next “episode”!

  4. You have really tempted my tastebuds! Mac & cheese is always a favorite staple around here. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this recipe! Just wanted to stop in and thank you for visiting on foodie friday.
    Jen @ Our Southern Table

  5. You have no idea how helpful this is. Thank you!

  6. “So everyone in the pool at once.” Hehehe, that’s how I do it, too!

    Cooking Basics is going to be an awesome series, I can already tell! I’ve done the roux for mac & cheese, but not been completely sure what I’m doing or if I’m doing it right. (From your tutorial, I can see that I’m doing it half right. Which is cool, there’s room to grow, right?)

  7. i can’t wait for the rest of this series! a roux is a definite basic that everyone needs to know how to make!

    thanks so much for linking up to mangia mondays!

    -kristin

    http://delightfullydowling.blogspot.com

  8. I learned from Alton Brown that not only does browning the roux change the flavor (to very nutty–ex: gumbo) but it also changes the thickening ability. The darker the roux, the less thickening ability. That’s one reason I sometimes add file’ powder to gumbo, to thicken it up a little more.

    • That’s a point I forgot to address and will have to edit! I’ve heard that when making gumbo it’s best to get the roux really dark – is that correct?

  9. Great directions and photos! I love making roux–and you can’t beat homemade mac & cheese! Thanks for clarifying that the fat and flour should be 1:1 ratio. I think I don’t always do that. :)

  10. Your posts always make me hungry! I’m so glad you’re posting this because I could use some help learning some kitchen basics!

  11. Perfect! And, I know what I want to dinner!

  12. Here from #commenthour. This looks SO good….to bad I’m on a diet for my wedding :( Check out my blog at http://www.morganandkari.com

    Kari

  13. Very Nice. Cooking basics are so important.

  14. mmmmm you had me at macaroni and cheese :)

  15. And all this time I thought Mac and Cheese came from a blue box. Geez. Ok, I’m going to sign on and learn the basics.

  16. Mmmm! It’s just after 9pm here in Mexico and I had dinner a couple of hours ago, but your Mac N’Cheese looks so delicious, I’m getting hungry all over again. :)

    Visiting from #commenthour

  17. Mac n Cheese is my favorite food group!!

  18. I think more people should know how to make roux! I love doing this for my truffle mac n cheese!

  19. Thanks for explaining. I never knew what a roux was! (not the greatest cook, here.) came over from the SITS comment hour.

  20. Yum! My kids love man-n-cheese. I must try this. Thanks for sharing.

    #commenthour

  21. I love making roux for gumbo. I adore the smell of it when it is chocolate brown. Mmm.

  22. All the cooking I do, and I’ve never made my own macs and cheese. Sad.

    Stopping in from #CommentHour

    http://alittlenosh.blogspot.com

  23. I so needed this. I keep breaking my rouxs! Bookmarking this post now. :)

  24. I have been trying to make the perfect roux for years! I started a while back when I was making gumbo. The gumbo was good, but I don’t think I got the roux quite right. I will definitely check out your method! Stopping by from SITS Comment Hour!

  25. I just love a GOOD mac n cheese!

    Visiting from #CommentHour

  26. Stopping by from #CommentHour – looks delicious!

  27. [...] would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my post on how to make a roux.  It was terrible of me to include a picture of the luscious, decadent, rich, sinful, bubbly, [...]

  28. This is great – a lot of people have no idea how to make a good roux! If you get a sec, pop on over to Foodie Friday and link up! Oh, and I found you on Sumo’s Sweet Stuff. :)

  29. I have never before heard of the term “roux.” How often do you use something like that? Can you pre-make roux for multiple recipes?

  30. [...] and browned so as to thicken the cooking liquid.  What’s this called? That’s right, a roux! You’re so [...]

  31. I used this recipe. I felt like there were little flour socks forming on my teeth with every bite. I can’t help but feel that I either didn’t cook the roux enough, or used too much. I used this roux with four cups of milk, cheddar, greyere, and a little parm. I consider myself a goddess in the kitchen, so you can imagine my dismay when I can’t perform an all American task like mac and cheese. What do you think about this?

    • I would definitely lean towards the idea that it wasn’t cooked long enough. The amount of milk you used sounds right. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out!

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