Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sauce Bechamel

I have a possibly fictional memory of eating baked crepes with chicken in them, but mom has no recollection. My research into a recipe took a sharp turn at the use of Bechamel Sauce. Soon, I was deep in the rabbit-hole of French sauces. I have yet to try making any of them, but will try posting the purest versions that I can find, then give my best efforts in the kitchen after-the-fact. In my search, I've seen versions of Bechamel Sauce including stock, veal, onions studded with cloves, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg, plus varying opinions on using hot milk versus using cold milk. But, since Bechamel is one of the basic French "mother sauces," I assume these variations are really just off-shoots of Bechamel. They probably even have their own names. I'm posting a version that I know I can trust, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child and Simone Beck.

--A NOTE ON EQUIPMENT: The recipe actually calls for a heavy-bottomed, 6-cup enameled, stainless steel, lined copper, porcelain, or pyrex saucepan and the use of a wire whisk for mixing. If you use anything with a non-stick coating, use a nylon whisk instead. A thin-bottomed pan is a poor heat conductor and may cause the sauce to scorch. Aluminum can discolor a white sauce.

--2 tbsp Butter
--2 tbsp Flour
--2 cups Whole Milk, brought to a boil with 1/4 tsp Salt
--White Pepper

In saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Blend in the flour, and cook slowly, stirring, until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring. This is now a white roux. Remove the roux from the heat. As soon as the roux has stopped bubbling, pour in all of the nearly-boiling milk at once. Immediately beat vigorously with a whisk to blend liquid and roux, gathering in all bits of roux from the inside edges of the pan. Set saucepan over moderately high heat and whisk until the sauce comes to the boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat, and beat in salt and pepper to taste. Sauce is now ready for final flavorings or additions as you wish.

If not used immediately, clean sauce off inside edges of pan with a
rubber scraper. To prevent a skin from forming on its surface, float a thin
film of milk or melted butter on top. Set aside uncovered, keep it
hot over simmering water, refrigerate, or freeze it.

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