|A dark roux is essential to a good southern gumbo, but it's time consuming, you can get burned easily, or worse, burn the roux and have to start over. This easy oven method really simplifies roux making & you can make it ahead & store!|
How to Make an Easy Dark Oven Roux
See that chocolately brown jar of lovely goodness? This, my friends, is pure gold to a southern cook! What is it you say? It is a deep, dark red Cajun roux, and one that is most appropriate for gumbos or meaty stews. It's a roux that is time consuming to achieve on the stove top, taking a great deal of patience, and a lot of attention to get to the right color without burning it or yourself.
A roux is nothing more than flour that has been browned in some form of fat, usually oil, but sometimes butter. Most cooks have used some form of roux in order to create sauces and gravies - generally a basic white sauce known as bechamel. This type of roux is cooked off only long enough to cook the raw flour, generally about 5 minutes or so, and though there is little to no color, it carries a strong thickening power to the dish.
A darker colored roux, however, acts not only as a thickener, but also adds additional flavor and imparts a deeper, richer color to the dishes where it is used as a base. It's a classic ingredient in many Cajun style dishes. And, when you need a dark roux and don't want to fool with all that cookin' and stirrin' and cookin' and stirring' and popping oil that, if you're like me, gives you roux blisters all across your knuckles, did you realize it's so easy to cook it in the oven? Course this works great for any color roux in between too, you'll just need to watch the color and stop it where you want it, but when you want a dark roux, the oven just makes it a breeze. And the best part is that you can make it ahead of time and store it till ya need it!
Remember though that the longer the roux cooks, it also loses some of its thickening power, so you have to factor that into the recipe that you are using it for. That's one reason you often see file powder (ground sassafras leaves) or okra (and sometimes even both) used in gumbos that use a darker colored roux.
To make an oven roux you'll start it first on the stovetop. Now, you can follow these same steps essentially if you want to do the roux fully on top of the stove. You'll just simply need to stand there and keep stirring, constantly, until it reaches the desired color. Rather than using the wire whisk here however, switch to a spoon since you'll literally be in the roux the entire time. The process needs to go low and slow so that you don't burn it, so it can take upwards of 45 minutes to more than an hour to get a deep, rich roux without burning it.
Either way though, oven or stovetop, you'll start them on the stove. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet or pot over medium high heat. Sprinkle a little flour in the hot oil to test it. If the flour begins to bubble, the oil is ready. Begin adding all of the flour a little at a time, whisking it in until all of the flour is fully incorporated.
Carefully transfer the pot or skillet to the oven and bake it to the desired color. It's as simple as that! Now, you'll be checking the roux about every 20 minutes so that you can whisk it, but it sure beats standing over a hot stove for sure. This roux pictured below is a light roux. It's achieved a peanut butter color in about 20 minutes time and would be appropriate for stews and even crawfish.
After 40 minutes in the oven, the roux has darkened to a medium color that is typically used as a base in another dish. This color works well with many types of seafood stews and dishes.
After an hour in the oven the roux has darkened just slightly more to the darker side of medium and is beginning to pick up a reddish tinge to it. It is still at the stage of a medium color and can be utilized the same as the lighter medium color above.
This darker color below was achieved at about a total of 1-1/2 hours in the oven. This color roux is best for meatier dishes and both seafood and chicken gumbos.
If you are not immediately using this roux, once you remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool, you'll need to keep stirring it occasionally since cast iron will retain heat for awhile and keep cooking the roux. If the roux is the color you want when you remove it, and you do not want it to darken further, you'll need to very carefully transfer it to a new pot or container for it to cool so that it does not darken further. I left this in the skillet and as you can see the color is just a bit deeper and richer, exactly what I wanted to achieve.
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Recipe: Easy Dark Oven Roux©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 2 hours | Yield: Depends
- Equal amounts of canola or vegetable oil
- Equal amounts of all purpose flour
- Cast iron pot or skillet
Preheat the oven to 350 to 375 degrees. I find my oven needs to be just slightly under 375 degrees. Start the roux on the stovetop to get it going, preferably in a cast iron pot, by heating the oil to medium high, then reduce to medium and gradually whisk in the flour a little at a time until fully incorporated. Carefully transfer the pot into the hot oven and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirring about every 20 minutes, until the roux turns a deep, dark, chocolate brown.
Once roux is ready, place the pot over medium heat and add the vegetables, proceeding with the rest of the recipe as directed, or if you aren't using it right away, remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Continue stirring occasionally since the cast iron will retain the heat for a while.
To Store: Keep cooled roux in a glass container or mason jar in the fridge till needed. Some say you can keep roux indefinitely, but I'd say try to use it refrigerated within 4 to 6 months, frozen not longer than 8 or 9 months, for best quality. Freeze the cold roux in ice cube trays until solid, then pop out and bag for anytime you need a few tablespoons of roux. Let thaw first, or if using from refrigerated, always bring to room temperature before using.
Bring refrigerated stored roux up to room temperature before using.
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