Béchamel Sauce

Some of you may already know how to make sauces. I was not one of those people. So imagine my surprise back when I was making cheese dishes when I discovered how blessed easy it is to make a béchamel sauce. If sauces intimidate you, then a béchamel sauce is the perfect place to start.

First, a few words about the sauce. It’s a white sauce. It’s also one of the five Mother sauces. A mother sauce is a sauce that once you learn how to make properly, you can alter the recipe a tad to get a different result. For example, once you master the recipe below (and you will in about 15 minutes of time), you can add various herbs along with the the milk, and change the taste of the sauce. Word on the street is that dill is marvelous, and peppercorns are also a great addition. Experiment on your own and see what you can arrive at.

Béchamel sauce is often used on vegetables and fish. In fact, legend has it that Marquis Louis de Béchamel, a 17th century financier who held the honorary post of chief steward of King Louis XIV’s household, is said to have invented Béchamel Sauce when trying to come up with a new way of serving and eating dried cod. However, I’m inclined to believe Béchamel was actually invented by the Italians, as the majority of French cuisine was actually heavily influenced by the Italians in the 16th century. It’s no surprise that you can also use it on pasta in a pinch, but cream sauces (sans flour) might be a better option.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for a basic béchamel sauce.

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of AP Flour
  • 1 cup of Milk

In a sauce pan placed over medium heat, melt the butter. The moment the butter is completely liquified (no foam please), whisk in the flour. This should result in a roux. Cook for approximately three minutes, but do not allow to brown.

Add the milk, 1/4 cup at a time. Whisk into the roux until a smooth, velvety consistency is maintained. Once reached, add another 1/4 cup of milk. Repeat until milk is gone.

That’s all there is to it. Pretty simply huh? Some folks say that you need to scald the milk beforehand, but I had no problem reaching the desired consistency with cold milk. Maybe I got lucky.

Some people like a thicker béchamel sauce. If this is you, simply add another tablespoon of butter, and another Tablespoon of flour (do not add any additional milk). If you want the sauce thinner, subtract a tablespoon of both butter and flour.

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