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White sauce lesson: Learn to make Bechamel sauce

September 09, 2011|Scott Anderson | Culinary Passion

White sauces includes classic sauces such as veloute; and  béchamel, both are made by thickening a liquid with a roux.  

Veloute;, which translated, means "velvety, soft, and smooth to the palate," is made by flavoring a white stock with aromatics and thickening with a blonde roux.  

Béchamel, in Pierre P. Escoffier's day was made by adding cream to a thick velouté sauce.  In modern terms we make béchamel by thickening milk, sometimes with added aromatics for flavor, with a blonde roux.

A blonde roux is a roux that has not been cooked as long as dark roux, and thickens more than a dark roux.

You need to watch this sauce as it tends to scorch easily and will take on a grayish color if cooked in an aluminum pan. Also, simmer the sauce on a flat-top plate set on the burner, not directly on the flame or burner, that will assist in a nice even simmer with less chance of scorching.

Now that you had a brief lesson in white sauces, lets get a traditional Culinary Institute of America  bechamel sauce going.  Once it's made, you can add in grated sharp cheddar cheese to make a cheese sauce, Gruyere and Parmesan for a mornay sauce or heavy cream to make a cream sauce.

— Scott C. Anderson is associate food service director and chef with Shepherd University dining services in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Chef Ambassador to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.



Bechamel sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablepoons minced yellow onions

1/2 pound white roux (8 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 8 tablespoons butter, see cook's note)

1/2 gallon whole milk (see cook's note)

Salt, as needed

Ground white pepper as needed

Ground nutmeg, optional (see cook's note)



Heat a large, flat-bottomed sauce pan, add in oil and then the onions. Saute over low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and tender.

Add in roux to the onions and cook until roux is hot.

Gradually add in the milk, whisking to work out any roux balls (lumps). Bring the sauce to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer until the sauce is nice, smooth and thicken. This may take up to 30 minutes. Be sure to stir or whisk continually and skim off floating bits of roux throughout the cooking time.

Season with salt and pepper and, if using, nutmeg.

Using white pepper gives you flavor without adding dark specks to the sauce resulting from using using ground black pepper. Remove from heat and strain through a cheesecloth laid into a fine strainer over a clean pot.

Return the sauce to a simmer. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings as needed. You can now turn it into another sauce a described below or serve.

If you decide to store, be sure to cool rapidly in a shallow pan and refrigerate.

Makes 1/2 gallon

Cook's note:   To make roux, in saucepan melt butter, then add flour. Mix for about 15 minutes, do not burn. When using milk, 2 percent is OK but offers less flavor. Freshly grated nutmeg is optional, but adds great flavor.

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