To make a basic 50/50 roux, melt a pound of margarine in a sauce pan and add one pound of white flour with a wire whisk. (Note: In place of margarine, you can use any type of oil or cooking fat to make a roux. Using the drippings from a roast or even a turkey can give you the perfect flavor enhancer for an authentic pan gravy.
On very low heat, warm and whisk the mixture until it is smooth and well blended. You can now use this as your thickening agent for your soups and sauces. If allowed to cool – then rewarm the roux in the microwave prior to using. A ‘hard’ roux will leave lumps in your sauce, soup or gravy.
Another method for adding texture to your soups and sauces is to add cornstarch. To do this, the cornstarch must be ‘diluted’ with cold water or any chilled liquids. (If you are preparing a cream based soup or sauce, then thin the cornstarch with milk or cream). Your cornstarch and liquid blend should be slightly textured, pourable but not too thin. With your stockpot at a medium simmer, whisk your cornstarch mixture into your soups and sauces by slowly pouring as you stir. This method is preferred for ‘lighter sauces and glazes, while the roux method is a better alternative for hearty soups, stews and chowders.
Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice, lentils, pasta and grains such as barley and wheat. These items contain flours and natural starches that are released when cooked.
Tips for perfect gravies, soups and chowders:
- Bring your stock to a light boil and whisk in your roux in small amounts, allowing your ingredients to simmer together.
- Add more roux until the desired thickness is achieved.
- Note that a common ‘rookie mistake’ is to add too much roux before it has the chance to fully cook together with your stock.
- A good rule of thumb to observe — “When you think you need to add just a little more” – DONT!