When my dad taught me how to make gravy, I was probably about 13 or so. I had been cooking for a while by that time, I’m sure I had made gravy before, but my dad taught me how to make graving by starting with a roux. The important thing though is that he did teach me by starting with flour and grease (we never said oil back then). Daddy never told me that his way of making gravy was called a roux. I didn’t really learn about the complexities of a roux until I went to culinary school, years later. Since culinary school, I can say I no longer make my roux with flour and grease, even though back in the day when Daddy was teaching me, the grease was mainly bacon grease – so, y.u.m.m.y!!! Today, I use roux for different reasons and in different applications. Sometimes for gravy, sometimes for sauce, it depends on what I’m making. Something else I learned in culinary school was that roux comes in a variety of colors. There are blond rouxs, brown rouxs, red rouxs and black rouxs. The darker the roux, the more intense the flavor!
I use a light or blond roux if I’m making the gravy for creamed chicken or chicken pot pie. I use a medium to dark roux for brown gravy or if I’m making gumbo. Different color rouxs for different dishes. This is the recipe for a basic roux. The longer you allow it to brown, the more intense the flavor and the darker the color. But be careful not to burn it, and yes there is a difference that you can taste!
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup plus AP flour
1 quart of broth or water
Melt butter on stove top using a 4 quart sauce pan or large cast iron skillet, using a medium heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the flame down to medium low. Add flour and stir until it reaches the consistency of peanut butter. Brown roux to the desired shade. When preferred color is reached, add liquid to the roux. I usually prefer to use broth but you can use your choice of liquid, including water, milk, juice and stock. Once you master making roux, it will be your “go to” choice for thickening soups, sauces and gravies.
Quick Tip: One of my chef instructors taught us to make a batch of roux to keep near the stove to use as needed, instead of starting a roux from scratch every time we needed to thicken a dish. I tend to do this when I’m working on a big meal and I have many dishes that will need thickened, gravy to be made etc. Make a batch of blond or light to medium brown roux. When it reaches the color you want, remove it from the heat and keep in a covered container near the stove. If you have any left over that you won’t use for a while, you can keep it in the refrigerator until you need to use it.