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Fellowship and Roux

A bunch of years ago, I started thinking how nice it would be if the women at church got together on a regular basis to talk about all things “nest-y” : how to set an atmosphere in your home, how to can peaches, how to sew a button, how to organize your cupboards … that sort of thing. What really got me started on this path was when I realized how many younger women in our church had never had any training at all in this department. Some of them had mothers who worked, some had mothers who were so competent themselves that they didn’t want their daughters in the kitchen messing things up for them. Seriously. I’ve heard that one more than once. Sad, right?

In a steady little stream, these young women would come to me with their questions. How do I make a roast? I can’t seem to get on top of the mess at home … do you have any tips? Can you show me how to sew on a button?
They were just precious. Every one of them. And I would answer the easy questions and pop over to their houses to show them the more time-consuming things. But I thought, There must be a better way.

And one day, while studying Titus 2 (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), I thought about how God had designed women. We were born for fellowship. Talking is like breathing to us, and we look for any excuse we can to be together. So when He wrote, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored,” maybe God’s intent was that we carry this out in the most natural way possible–while simply enjoying each other’s company. Everything doesn’t have to happen in a formal setting. Some things unfold best while standing at a community oven, shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting for your bread to bake.

Unfortunately, community ovens have gone out the window. We each have our own these days, so we have to be more purposeful about our coming together. So I decided, a few years back, to institute a gathering. I called it the “Home Skills Fellowship.” And we went like gangbusters for the first several months, but then I got on a crazy traveling schedule and I was suddenly gone just about every first Saturday and third Tuesday of the month, which was when we were meeting back then. I have grieved our gatherings ever since. So last month, we rebooted! We invited the women to pack up their children and come for lunch (which we potluck), a rag rug demonstration (courtesy of Lindsey), a lesson on making roux, and lots of fellowship.

If you live within driving distance of Marysville, Washington, and this sounds like something you’d like to participate in–either as a “teacher” of something or a “learner” of something, or just as a woman who loves fellowship, you’ll find us at Calvary Chapel Marysville from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month. Bring your lunch (or something to share), bring whatever craft you’re working on (or questions about one you’d like to learn), bring your children. They’re always welcome. 🙂

Here’s a little roux-talk, followed by some pictures of our first gathering:

What is a roux?

Roux is simply a mixture of equal parts of fat and flour. The fat can be butter, oil or animal fat, such as bacon grease. The flour is generally considered to be all-purpose flour, since cake flour has 20% more thickening power than all-purpose.

There are three types of roux:

1. White roux (cooked 2-3 minutes) ~ used for milk-based sauces and gravies, such as the gravy you’d make for biscuits and gravy, or for bechamel

2. Blonde roux (cooked 4-5 minutes) ~ used for subtle sauces, like veloute, and soups, such as chicken soup

3. Brown roux (cooked 5-10 minutes) ~ used for rich sauces and soups, like gravy

*The longer you cook a roux, the darker it will become and the more flavor it will develop, but it will also become more liquid and it will lose some of its thickening power. Brown roux, for instance, will thicken you soups and sauces about 1/3 less than a white roux.

**I’ve read over and over that roux must cool before you add it to a sauce or a soup, or it will break down and you’ll get lumps. It can be warm or cold, but never hot. Pour it out of the pan and into another container to cool, then whisk it into the soup or sauce and simmer for at least 20 minutes to incorporate. HOWEVER, I’ve been pouring my liquid into my hot roux for years and years whenever I make gravy, and I’ve never had a problem. After asking the other cooks at our fellowship, they all did the same thing, so there you go.

How much do you need? The answer depends on what you’re aiming for.

If you want just a thin consistency, add 3 ounces of roux per quart of liquid

For a medium consistency, add 4 ounces of roux per quart of liquid

For a thick consistency, add 5 ounces of roux per quart of liquid

For gravy, add 6 ounces of roux per quart of liquid

In all honesty, I have always just winged this. But this is the rule of thumb. I think it’s always better to start with more, because you can easily thin out the sauce or gravy by adding a little more water or stock if needed.

If you decide to make a big batch of roux:

–you can store it in the fridge for up to a week

–you can freeze it in an ice cube tray, pop those cubes in a baggie, and keep it 3 months in the freezer

There are probably a thousand things you can make with a roux. Here are just a few ideas:

  • biscuits and gravy
  • turkey gravy, or gravy of any sort
  • clam chowder (great with bacon grease as the fat)
  • cream of mushroom soup
  • cream of chicken soup
  • cream of pretty much anything soup
  • fettucine alfredo
  • bechamel and mornay sauces
  • gumbo and all sorts of Cajun recipes (in Cajun recipes, they’re after flavor, not thickening power, so you cook the roux to the brown point and even beyond)

Simple gravy recipe:

  • 2 TBSP fat (if you’re making a meat gravy, use the drippings from your meat. If you don’t have enough drippings, add butter to make up the difference)
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1 cup liquid (broth, milk or heavy cream)
  • salt and pepper (if your meat was heavily seasoned, you may not need this, but generally you need about ½ tsp of salt per cup of liquid. Taste first to see if it’s needed)

Simple béchamel sauce:

  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: dash of dried mustard

Simple mornay sauce (a variation of béchamel):

  • 1 recipe béchamel sauce plus ½ cup more milk, with 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 1 cup (or more) shredded cheddar or Gruyere cheese

Make the béchamel sauce, remove from heat, and whisk in cheese until melted. This is great over cauliflower or broccoli, and can be used as a base for macaroni and cheese.

Nantua sauce:

  • 1 recipe béchamel sauce
  • ¼ cup cooked and finely chopped shrimp, crab or lobster
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika

Make basic sauce, remove from heat and add seafood. Serve over pasta.

Easy Alfredo Sauce:

  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 4 TBSP flour
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 ½ cups half ‘n half
  • 1 ½ cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter in your pan and add the minced garlic. Cook for just one minute. Add the flour and cook another 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly.

Let the roux cool slightly, then add the half ‘n half slowly, whisking to incorporate. Add the parmesan cheese and continue to whisk until the cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve over fettucini noodles. Add cooked chicken or shrimp if you wish. You can also cook the shrimp in the sauce if you add it about the same time as the cheese. Shrimp only takes a few minutes—just long enough to turn pink.

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