A good ”Roux” (pronounced roo, like Kanga’s little one) is an essential part of making a good cream soup.
Roux is a thickener used in sauces, soups and gravy’s. Roux can be a wide variety of colors with white being the most common and the least flavorful and red (or dark brown) being used mostly in Cajun cooking and having the strongest flavor. Most of us were likely taught to add a few tablespoons of flour to our gravy to thicken it up but I assure you that after using roux you won’t go back to plain old flour!
Roux is simply a combination of equal amounts of flour and fat. Many people use vegetable oil or canola oil but I was taught to use butter so that is all I have ever tried. If you save your bacon fat feel free to try that as well.
I have heard that roux can be made in the microwave but I imagine it would be difficult to control the flavor so I choose to use the stove top.
Begin by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. After the butter is melted, slowly add the flour while stirring with a whisk. The consistency should be similar to cream of wheat. Cook at a low temperature for an ENTIRE 10 minutes, stirring constantly (let the kids help). Cooking the roux for this long will help to remove the raw flour taste and improve the overall flavor. If you would like a white roux keep the temperature low and be sure the mixture does not burn. If you are cooking Cajun food you can let the roux burn to the desired color, but this will change the flavor. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and bring to room temperature, store in the refrigerator or the freezer for future use.
I was taught to let roux cool before use, however, when making soup I almost always add the roux to my milk or cream right after the 10 minute cooking period is up. I do foresee this being problematic if you are unsure how much roux to use, but if you have a trusted recipe I say just put it in!
When thickening sauces and gravies add room temperature roux a few tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.