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Nov 22, 2011 03:11 PM

Gluten-free roux? [moved from General Topics]

I am making a chowder that requires a standard roux. Will a roux made with gluten-free flour hold up to the heat and the milk in the chowder? I have some xantham gum, if that might help, but am unsure how to use it in this situation.

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  1. gluten free flours don't work in roux-- the characteristics of gluten are what makes roux work in the first place. you should explore other recipes or other means of thickening your existing chowder recipe rather than w roux, and there are likely to be textural and taste tradeoffs w this route. for starters i would try thickening w finely mashed potatoes or other starchy veg-- this way you won't end up with the dangerous and dreaded "gluten-free stabilizer mouthfeel" or "tastes like chop suey sauce" effects. another option is simply to omit the roux step and eat a thinner chowder.

    1. i participated in a thread where several posters were adamant that New England chowder should not be thickened with a roux. The only thickening should come from the potatoes. They viewed the typical 'library paste' chowder that many restaurants serve as a abomination, or at least something that should not be called 'New England'. I think the sentiment is stronger in Maine than Boston.

      Apparently the oldest chowders where thickened with bread or crackers.

      But if you want something thicker, there are several non-flour starches that would work. Potato starch, or even instant mashed potatoes would stay with the potato theme.

      Cornstarch is a standard thickener for milk based puddings, so should work in a chowder. Arrowroot is not recommended for milk sauces (makes it slimy or something like that).

      3 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          I am among the anti-roux crowd. Roux and starch thickeners really developed to help keep a chowder over heat without having the milk curdle; it's a bandaid for mediocrity, but one that most professional cooks - who are preparing foods for institutions where it's not economical to make fresh batches of chowder over the course of an evening - have popularized as standard. A fine chowder should only have potatoes and pilot crackers or the like providing thickness.

          1. I've been extremely happy with the roux I've made with brown rice flour--I think that a roux is much more flexible than baked products when it comes to gluten-free substitions, so don't sweat it. As long as your flour isn't too strongly-flavored (like buckwheat) or grainy (like some rice flour), it should be fine. Xanthan gum would be too much trouble for a roux.

            1. Real chowders do not need a roux. If you want it thick, grate a potato into it and use that as a thickener. Please, no flour of any kind.

              4 Replies
              1. re: escondido123

                This is sort of poster I warned about. :)

                Just curious, what family tradition are you working from? Another poster who is adamant about no-thickener bases his claim on the practice of Maine lobstermen, whose kids he'd taught.

                1. re: paulj

                  Fourth generation New Englanders and lived in Providence for 25 years. The only time you would see a chowder served "thick enough to stand a spoon in" was when it was for tourists. Sorry, got to keep the standards somewhere. ;) (I would venture the bread/crackers in chowder were for bulk not thickening--it had to be stick to your ribs on not much money.)

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Actually, staled breads (hard tack being an extreme form of this) and soups are fraternal twins, culinarily speaking. Sop. Soup. Sop. Soup.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Newfoundland has fish and brewis, a cod stew using hardbread that has been softened in water. Hardbread is a brick hard form of hardtack.

                      From a recent Baron Ambrosia show on Cooking Channel I learned about a Portuguese 'dry soup', a seafood soup using enough bread to form a stew.
                      Acorda de mariscos

                      In any case, for the OP, potatoes are perfectly good starch for chowder, even if they are a 19th c innovation.

                      Using Google books ngram viewer I found some 19th c recipes for chowder

                      1857 Mrs Hale's version - with just hard biscuit or crackers
                      1836 The Virginia Housewife, with crackers, and thickened with a bit of flour and butter at the end
                      1837 - with potatoes and crackers
                      Of course cookbooks, even if hand written, don't reflect the practice of people who pass down their recipes by word of mouth.

              2. I think the answer you've been getting basically boils down (haha) to the suggestion to use potato starch. If for some reason you didn't want to add potatoes to your chowder, at least you know that potato starch works as a compatible thickener for your chowder if the recipes typically call for potatoes. Most stews and chowders have a thickening agent that is a starch that is integral to the recipe. Clam chowder has potatoes, corn chowder has corn starch.

                If you're making a corn chowder, then obviously some corn starch or some corn grits (if you're planning on cooking the chowder at least a half hour more) would be a more compatible starch.