Recently I switched from using a roux (50/50 mixture of flour and butter) as a thickener to using xanthan gum. I love a good rich hearty sauce – no thin watery sauces for me. I recently made my version of Coq au Vin, which includes a nice thick sauce and my guests were using bits of bread to wipe their plates clean of the cause.
Traditionally, sauces were thickened with roux, but Sweet Lady Wife has often commented that she could taste the flour and feel its grittiness, detracting from the sauce. A few months ago I began experimenting with Modernist Cuisine and one of the outcomes of that experimentation was the adoption of Xanthan Gum as my go-to thickener.
Xanthan Gum is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose<, and is commonly used in commercial food products whenever a thickening agent is needed. It is tasteless, and a little goes a long way – my little two-ounce packet might well last me the rest of my life. Except as acting as a laxative when consumed in HUGE quantities, xanthan gum has no negative side affects.
To thicken a sauce with xanthan gum, I first add a little butter for richness (I’d do that anyway). Then whisk in the xanthan gum a small pinch at a time. Add a pinch, whisk for 10 seconds, and check the thickness of the sauce. Repeat as necessary. You may have to repeat several times. Resist the urge to add a bunch at once: There is a delay between adding the xanthan gum and seeing its effect.
One of the things that was immediately noticeable to me was that sauces thickened with xanthan gum seemed to have a richer, more pure flavor.
Where to By Xanthan Gum
You can order it from Amazon (It seems like you can get anything from Amazon these days). I buy xanthan gum from a small family-run online store called Modernist Pantry.