Béchamel

Béchamel or white sauce is one of the Master sauces.  It is the cornerstone of French cooking.  It is also the basis of many different sauces.

It is said that this sauce was named after Louis de Béchameil who became majordomo to Louis XIV.  It is unlikely that he was the creator, instead it was probably a variation on a recipe by one of the King’s cooks.

It is a sauce that is made by combining warm milk to a flour, butter mixture.  It is best to make this with a whisk to avoid lumps, and having the milk warm and the pan not so hot seems to help also.

The basic ratio is 3 Tablespoons butter, 6 Tablespoons flour and 2 cups milk.

Melt the butter and add the flour, in a heavy saucepan.  This is the roux.  For a white sauce, it should cook enough to get rid of the raw flour taste but not brown.  Other sauces may require a browned roux.

Begin to add the milk slowly, whisking all the time.  You can add seasoning to the milk while you warm it or afterwards.  The easiest way to do it is to add nutmeg and salt and pepper once all the milk has been incorporated.  Other seasoning you can add to the warming milk would be bay leaves, garlic or onions.  Let the sauce simmer until it thickens.  Check for seasoning.

Practice makes perfect.  I now don’t even measure now.  This was the first sauce I learned as a young girl.  It is also the first sauce I taught my children.  If you learn how to make this, you can make many, many dishes.

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