The basis to many recipes, especially (but not limited to) anything with a ‘white’ or cream sauce, is a simple rue (or roux). Most simply put, it is flour, to thicken the sauce, which has been sautéed in butter to get rid of the ‘floury’ taste that it would give the food if you added it directly.
When making a rue sauce, the general rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of butter (or other oil for the calorie-conscious) for every cup of liquid. This makes a fairly thick sauce, just about perfect for brown gravy. Use a higher or lower rue-to-liquid ratio as needed.
How To Make the Rue SaucePut the butter in a heated saucepan over medium heat and allow to melt (or the oil to heat up a bit, if using oil.) Add the flour and stir well, making sure the butter completely combines with the flour. Continue to stir constantly until the mixture begins to bubble a bit and begins to turn a more golden color. The more you allow it to brown, the less thickening power it has, so this too can be used to adjust the thickness of the final sauce, but in either case be very careful not to burn it, as the scorched taste will be present in anything you add it to. Add the liquid slowly, stirring constantly; you may find a whisk useful at this stage. Allow it to cook for several minutes to give it time to thicken. Keep in mind that it will thicken even more once it is removed from the heat.
For brown gravySeparate the meat drippings; use the fat instead of butter (or with the butter, if there isn’t enough by itself), and then use the other juices for the liquid, supplemented with stock or broth if necessary.
For a basic whitesauceUse milk for the liquid, and be even more cautious of burning the flour, as the flavor is rather delicate and the burned taste will be even more obvious.
***Please note: Flour can reach (and retain) a heat of around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. With the addition of the butter, if it splashes out of your pan, it will stick to you, and it will burn you, badly. Be very careful.
Some of the many wonderful uses for a simple rue:
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