Monday, August 27, 2012

Bechamel

Béchamel (beh-SHAH-mell) is a creamy white sauce, which is one of five French "mother sauces" because it's a simple base for a number of other sauces. When a secondary sauce is created from the mother sauce, it's called a "daughter sauce" (just a fun fact). I made a béchamel recently because I was making a lasagne (which I'll share in tomorrow's post). Add some grated cheese to a béchamel (a.k.a. Mornay sauce) for a lovely fondue dipping sauce or add to pasta and you have mac & cheese. You could also add mustard (I like dijon); mustard sauce is delicious with chicken and vegetables.

There are a few recipes and methods but I like mine because it's easy to remember and easy to make.

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste

Some people use different proportions but I think it's just easy to remember 1 cup, 1 tablespoon, 1 tablespoon. Don't you agree?
Start by melting the butter in a saucepan. Once it's liquefied, add in the flour and whisk vigorously to make sure there are no lumps. Let it cook for a minute or so until it's bubbling so much that it's almost foamy. There, you've just made a white roux. Add in a half of the milk slowly, whisking to combine, and make sure the mixture is smooth before adding the rest of the milk. **Some chefs swear that you MUST add warm milk to avoid lumps. I've never had a problem with lumps when I've used cold milk so I just stick with fridge-cold milk and save myself a step, some time, and a pan.

Add in a pinch of salt and grind in some black pepper (or white pepper if you want to keep the sauce pretty and white).
Let the sauce barely come to a boil and remove from the heat. Tada! You're done - except, don't forget to give the sauce to taste to make sure it's seasoned properly. Just FYI, (almost) any thickening agent - whether it's a roux or a corn starch slurry - needs to come to a boil to release its full thickening power. At this point, you can add your other ingredients to make the daughter sauce or use it as is for whatever you plan on doing with it.
If you let the sauce cool, it will get REALLY thick; I'd compare it to the consistency of ketchup. I let my sauce cool so 1) I could show you what it looks like and 2) I made a lasagna (which I will share in tomorrow's post).

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