Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Béchamel Sauce

Mornay sauce over steamed veggies
I created this blog because I love to cook and I wanted my daughter to have easy access to my recipes when she had her own apartment/home. I am pretty crazy about my daughter so you can imagine how excited I was when she decided that she might like this cooking thing and wanted to learn more. So we are going to cook together and learn the basics. I decided to start at the beginning- sauces- and what better place to start than the five mother sauces.

The five mother sauces of French cooking were coined by Chef Auguste Escoffier in his classic cookbook Le Guide Cullinaire (the English translation is A guide to Modern Cookery (modern for 1903)). He listed the five mother sauces as Sauce Béchamel; Sauce Espagnole; Sauce Velouté; Sauce Tomate; and Sauce Hollandaise. A sauce derived form one of the mother sauces created by adding additional ingredients is a daughter sauce.

We are going to make a mother sauce each weekend for five weeks. So that brings us to béchamel sauce. Oh I love this sauce. It is the basis for my baked mac and cheese, the ultimate in comfort food. But I digress. Béchamel sauce was named after Louis Béchamel, a seventeenth-century French financier and courtier. It is basically a roux made from equal parts fat and flour and then milk or cream is added. It sounds deceptively easy.

Method

2 Tablespoons of Butter (Unsalted)
2 Tablespoons of Flour (Unbleached All Purpose)
1 1/4 Cups of Milk (Heated)
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch of White Pepper
Pinch of Nutmeg (Optional)

Heat the milk over low heat in a small sauce pan (it should never boil) In a medium size heavy sauce pan over low heat melt the butter. Once the butter is melted whisk in the flour.

Roux
Raise the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the roux (the butter flour mixture is called a roux and it is magical) is slightly fragrant (do not let it brown- you will do that for other sauces but not this one). This will take about 2-3 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the heated milk.
Slowly whisking in the milk
This sauce is supposed to be smooth and velvety (no lumps) so whisk it! Once all of the milk is added slowly bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Whisking the sauce
Cook the sauce (do not boil) for about 8-10 minutes until it has the consistency of a thick cream soup. If you so chose you can strain the sauce through a sieve to ensure its smoothness.
If you are going to use it later, take off of the heat, cool to room temperature, cover with wax paper to prevent a film from forming, and place in the refrigerator.  This sauce will keep for a day or two. If it is too thick when reheated, add a little milk to thin.

Alternations

Thick Béchamel Sauce
Prepare as above increasing the butter and flour to three tablespoons. This could be used a a base for a soufflé or to bind a runny casserole.

Thin Béchamel Sauce
Prepare as above using one tablespoon of butter and flour. This could be used a base for cream soups. 

Sauce Mornay
Because everything is better with cheese. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of grated cheese to the sauce in the last two minutes of cooking. You may need to add a little more milk to thin. (This is amazing served over steamed veggies). Cheese to try- Gruyere, Emmental, Parmesan, Swiss, cheddar, or blue cheese. 

Mustard Sauce
Because I love mustard. Add 2-4 tablespoons one tablespoon at a time of mustard to the prepared sauce. I like Dijon mustard. Try a Cajun mustard for a chance of pace. Be sure to taste as you add the mustard. A little mustard can go a long way. I use this as a base for my baked mac and cheese. The perfect comfort food.

White Sausage Gravy
Cook about 1/2 pound to a pound of sausage and save the drippings. Use sausage drippings instead of the butter to make the sauce. Use 2 tablespoons of drippings (add butter to make up the difference if necessary). Stir in the sausage at the end and warm. Serve over biscuits-- heaven. 

Creamed Spinach
This one is for my mom who loves creamed spinach. Make the béchamel sauce (add the nutmeg). Based on you taste preference you  you may want to add a bay leaf and a half of an onion with one clove stuck in it to the milk and heat the milk over very low heat for about 15 minutes to infuse the flavor (remove the onion, clove, and bay leaf before adding it to the roux). Meanwhile steam one pound of fresh spinach until wilted and tender. This will take about 5-6 minutes, remove from the steamer, coarse chop, and strain. Add the spinach to the sauce and stir. Serve immediately. 

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