Mastering the White Sauces

Sauce Bechamel

Sauce Bechamel is a milk based French Mother Sauce, which means it’s the base for a whole family of secondary sauces like Mornay, Cheddar Cheese Sauce, or even a simple cream sauce (see below).

The 5 French Mother Sauces:

  • Béchamel (light roux, milk, herbs and spices)
  • Velouté (light roux with stock)
  • Espagnole (dark roux, beef stock, mirepoix, tomato paste)
  • Sauce Tomat (dark roux, pork stock, tomatoes, mirepoix)
  • Hollandaise (no roux, egg yolks, melted butter)

Standard Bechamel (1 quart)

  • 4oz white roux
  • 1qt whole milk
  • 1/4 white onion, skin peeled off
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • Salt, White Pepper and Nutmeg To Taste

The Roux: Combine flour and butter in a small pan, and cook over moderate heat, to make a white roux. In a separate pot, heat up milk to a simmer.

Add roux to the milk, making sure that both the milk and the roux are not too hot.

Whisk the roux and milk together and bring to a simmer. Add bay leaf, clove, and white onion. Simmer for about 30 minutes, and thin with milk if necessary.

Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. The nutmeg should not be recognizable, but is just to add depth of flavor.

Finish by straining through cheesecloth.

Secondary Sauces:

Almost any milk or cream based sauce that you will make, will start with a classic Bechamel. Here are three of my favorite secondary sauces that are based on the recipe above.

Each of these are based on 1qt of Bechamel.

1200px-Making_White_sauce_5Standard Cream Sauce
8oz of heavy cream, heated
Season with salt, white pepper and a dash of lemon juice to taste
Favorite herbs and spices to taste
Strain through a cheesecloth for a smooth, creamy finish

Mornay Sauce
Stir in 4oz of Gruyere and 2 oz of Parmesan cheese, both grated
Turn off heat and whisk in 2 oz of unsalted butter
Adjust consistency with warm milk as necessary

Cheddar cheese sauceCheddar Cheese Sauce
8oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

Stir all ingredients into warm bechamel until cheddar cheese is melted

Mustard Sauce
Stir in 4oz good dijon mustard
Remove from heat and whisk in 4 oz of unsalted butter
Strain through cheesecloth
(You can spice this up by using hot Chinese mustard!)

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