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The Basics: Béchamel Sauce

Calling all home cooks: if you haven't been acquainted yet with béchamel sauce, it's time you learned a thing or two about it. Chances are you've eaten this white sauce more than a few times in your life, whether layered in moussaka, drizzled on a croque monsieur, or as a component in other classic courses. Béchamel is over 300 years old, and is such a key element of traditional French cuisine that it actually serves as the base for many other sauces (see variations after the jump). The white sauce begins with a roux, and then scalded milk is gradually added, until the consistency is smooth and thick. Once you've mastered the recipe, you can use it to make a filling for white lasagna or to mix together a cheese sauce for nontraditional nachos. What are you waiting for? Get the recipe when you read more.

Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel Sauce

Ingredients

  1. 6 tablespoons butter
  2. 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 4 cups whole milk
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  6. 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over low-medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan with the bay leaf until just about to boil.
  3. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

Makes 3 cups.

Variations:
To make mornay sauce, stir in 1-2 cups of freshly grated cheese.

Add diced onions to the melted butter for a soubise sauce.

Use heavy cream instead of whole milk to create a crème sauce.

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Comments
sarasonne
sarasonne
Bechamel sauce?? I've been making this sauce fore years but I've always heard it referred to as "white sauce" for years. I believe that's the American term for it. Fancy, I know.
AmberHoney
AmberHoney
Okay, so I'm 1/2 century old and never made this till about 3 months ago. I have since mastered it and increased my dishes like a thousand times in taste. Plus once you master it, the possibilities are endless with all those other fancy French named sauces. Happy Cooking!
Advah
Advah
My mum's trick is to saute a shallot in olive oil/butter then add the flour - that way it never curdles. Not sure why, but it always works.
CoconutPie
CoconutPie
I make béchamel sauce every week. It's so versatile. I love it in lasagna, chicken pot pie, broccoli gratin, mac and cheese, croque-monsieur, seafood casseroles, ham and cheese crêpes, etc.
verily
verily
I've honestly never heated the milk prior to adding it to the roux. But my sauce always turns out ok. Maybe I'll try heating it next time to do it the proper way.
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