The Secret Sauce Your Menu Needs!
Béchamel sauce sounds elegant, intricate and complicated. But don’t be intimidated!
The French even classify it as a mother sauce. (Not because it helps kids with their homework, but because it’s used as a base for many other creamy, cheesy and velvety sauces.) Fancy sounding, but surprisingly simple! Another not-so-scary name for béchamel is white sauce. It’s easily made from butter, flour and milk—ingredients you probably have on hand.
In its simplest form, white sauce starts with whisking flour and a bit of seasoning into melted butter—technically called a roux (ROO). Basic white sauce uses equal parts butter and flour. Cook and stir the flour-butter mixture over low heat about 2 minutes or just long enough to eliminate the raw flour flavor, but not long enough for it start browning. Gradually whisk in the milk. Dumping the milk in all at once will make the sauce clump. Continue over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and simmers, about 5 minutes.
Recipes use different proportions of flour, butter and milk to create different sauce thicknesses.
For about 2 cups of sauce use the following with 2 cups of milk.
- Thin Sauce 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour
- Medium 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons flour
- Thick 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup flour
- Very Thick 6 tablespoons butter and 6 tablespoons flour
That’s all there is to it! This easy technique produces a creamy, basic sauce. Basic can be boring. Get creative and load it with shredded cheese, herbs, lemon zest or chili powder to make it into the sauce of your dreams.
Start by checking out this basic white sauce recipe. Be sure to notice the recipe variations at the end of the recipe. I love the cheddar variation over steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Or, toss it with cooked pasta for a quick, no-bake, mac ‘n’ cheese.
The herb-garlic version lets you choose one of several herbs or spices to jazz up the flavor in addition to the garlic. It’s good over hot vegetables or grilled chicken.
As you might guess, the lemon and chive variation tastes awesome on grilled fish or poultry, as does the curry sauce.
Or, my favorite is to toss the Gruyère-Parmesan sauce with cooked chicken, steamed broccoli, pasta and crispy bacon pieces.