A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 24, 2008
“First, you make a roux…”

Many Cajun country (Loisiana and East Texas) recipes require a roux (wheat flour and fat, such as butter, lard or vegetable oil). “First, you make a roux...” (or, “First, make a roux...") has become a Cajun cooking cliché.

The phrase “First, you make a roux...” is cited in print in 1947 and became the title of a Cajun cookbook by 1954.


Wikipedia: Roux
Roux (IPA: /ˈruː/) (pronounced somewhat like the English word “rue") is a mixture of wheat flour and fat. It is the basis of three of the mother sauces of classical French cooking: sauce béchamel, sauce velouté, and sauce espagnole. Butter, vegetable oils, or lard are common fats used. It is used as a base for gravy, other sauces, soufflés, soups and stews.

Methods
The fat is heated in a pot or pan melting it if necessary, then the flour is added. The mixture is stirred until the flour is incorporated and then cooked until at least the point where a raw flour taste is no longer apparent and until desired color has been reached. The final results can range from the nearly white to the nearly black, depending on the length of time it is over the heat, and its intended use. The end result is a thickening and flavoring agent.

Roux is most often made with butter as the fat base but it may be made with any edible fat. In the case of meat gravies, they are often made with rendered fat from the meat. In regional American cuisine, bacon is sometimes fried to produce fat to use in the roux. Vegetable oil is often used when producing dark roux as it does not burn at high temperatures like butter will.

When combining roux with water-based liquids, such as broth or milk, it is important that these liquids are not excessively hot. It is preferable to add room temperature or warm liquid into a moderately hot or warm roux. They should be added in small quantities to the roux while stirring, to ensure proper mixing. Otherwise, the mixture will be very lumpy, not homogeneous, and not properly thickened.

Cooks can cheat by adding a mixture of water and wheat flour to a dish which needs thickening since the heat of boiling water will release the starch from the flour, however this temperature is not high enough to eliminate the floury taste. A mixture of water and flour used in this way is colloquially known as cowboy roux since it imparts a flavor to the finished dish which a traditional haute cuisine chef would consider unacceptable.

Google Books
Mrs. Candy and Saturday Night
By Robert Tallant
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1947
Pg. 64:
Mr. Petit talked as he cooked. “First, you make a roux,” he explained, as he stirred the beginnings of his shrimp jambalaya in the big iron pot.

OCLC WorldCat record
First—you make a roux.
by Les Vingt Quatre Club, Lafayette, La.
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: Lafayette, La., Published by Les Vingt Quatre Club for Lafayette Museum Assn., 1954.

24 August 1972, Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, MS), “First you make a roux...” by Louise Rogers, pg. 13, col. 1:
“First you make a roux.”
With these few cogent words, good cooks from Louisiana’s Cajun country have been trying for many years to tell others how to cook the delicious dishes that are their every day fare.

27 July 1978, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Gumbo Rule: First, Make Roux” by Susan Dart, sect. 6, pg. G16:
WHEN I WAS growing up in New Orleans we used to laugh at older women who tried to give us recipes for gumbo and jambalaya and things like that. All the recipes started off: “First you make a roux.”

OCLC WorldCat record
First You Make a Roux
by J F Ryan
Type:  Article; English
Publisher: Washington, DC : American Chemical Society, c1992-
Publication: Today’s chemist at work. 12, Part 7 (2003): 7

Butter Pig
April 23, 2004
First, you make a roux...
There has been some speculation that 100% of cajun recipes begin with the instructions, “First, you make a roux...”. It’s an important part of the cuisine, and when a cajun cook says “roux” they usually mean “brown roux.”

OCLC WorldCat record
First You Make a Roux
by terri pischoff wuerthner
Type:  Article; English
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication: Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 6, no. 4 (2006): 64-68

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, September 24, 2008 • Permalink