Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Make a Basic White Sauce (Béchamel)

Béchamel, or white sauce, is one of the "Mother Sauces" in French cooking. It's a handy thing to know how to make since it's a building block for other sauces.
And ya know I like to make it because it involves making roux.

The basic ingredients are in the foreground: flour, butter, milk, salt.  Do you even need to run to the store for this?

Béchamel can be used in manicotti, lasagna, and other baked pastas, or to top croque monsieur.  Add some garlic and Parmesan and you have yourself a nice sauce for a white pizza.  Add some cheddar and dry mustard and you have a cheese sauce that can be used on vegetables or as a dip.  Flavor as you'd like and use in place of cream of xyz soups.  Change the milk to cream and you have a nice cream sauce. 
You get the idea. 

Equal parts of flour and butter are used.  The amount of butter and flour you use compared to the amount of milk determines how thick your sauce will be.  I shoot for a medium thickness most of the time.  That works for me in most dishes.

Start by making a roux.  Melt the butter on low heat. 

When the butter gets nice and foamy, add the flour, stirring to avoid lumps.

Cook the roux on low heat, stirring constantly.  Bechamel requires a French roux not a Cajun roux...which means a white or blonde roux rather than a dark one.  When the roux bubbles, it's time to move on.

Add milk that has been heated.  Don't use cold from the fridge milk or your sauce may separate.  Slowly stir in the milk to prevent lumps.  I need more hands.  Season with salt.  Pepper and nutmeg are also common additions.

Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon...or spatula in this case.  Why dirty something else?

Now the fun really begins.  Create your own sauce from the béchamel by adding other things.  I'm making a dipping sauce for soft pretzels.  I've added about 3/4 c grated cheddar and about 1 Tbsp of pickled jalapenos.

Basic White Sauce (Béchamel)from Ms. enPlace
* this makes 1 cup of sauce and can be doubled, tripled, halved, etc.
* these proportions are for a medium thickness
* for a thinner sauce, use half as much butter and flour
* for a thicker sauce, use double butter and flour

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 c hot milk
1/4-1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter over low heat until foamy.  Sprinkle in the flour and make a blonde roux by cooking and stirring.  When the roux bubbles, slowly pour in the hot milk while stirring.  Season with salt.  Cook until sauce has thickened.

This is an all-purpose sauce.  A variety of other ingredients can be added, such as garlic, Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, dry mustard.

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