The Sauce That Goes on Everything

The bits in this are diced shallots. Making a perfectly smooth parmesan bechamel is a challenge, but worth doing. If you can’t do the bits, you can use powder instead. You do you.

I like to keep the tension high, but since there’s a picture, I’ll just come out with it. The mystery sauce is bechamel, and it sounds complex, but it’s a basic sauce that is easy to make and then modify to suit all kinds of things. Let’s talk about it.

Bechamel starts with a roux. One part butter to one part flour. A good start is two tablespoons and two tablespoons. Melt the butter in a pan, and add things like garlic or shallots or onions if you’re going to. Then add the flour and whisk. You should get a really pale paste. This won’t take long, but you need to be patient with it. Cook it on low, and back off the heat if it starts to brown. It’ll still be good, it just won’t be white. Once it’s a nice paste, add about a cup and a quarter of cream. You can use milk, but I would use whole milk if I was going the milk route. The lower fat versions just lack richness. Whisk, and wait. Keep whisking. It’ll get thick in about 10 minutes.

That’s it.

That’s bechamel. You can put it on some pasta exactly as it is, or melt a bit of real parmesan into it. If that makes it too thick, add a touch more milk/cream. It’ll be fine. Too plain? Mix it with your favorite tomato sauce for something really different. It goes well with salmon. If you love cheese, you can add a bit of wine once the flour is cooked, and then, when the sauce is done, grated cheddar mixed with a little cornstarch and a bit of paprika. Just sit next to the stove and dip pieces of crusty bread into it. Pure flavor, and if the bread is whole grain, and maybe even homemade, it’s not terrible for you. Do you love lasagne/lasagna? Check out this article on how to put something really delicious together that looks good enough to share with company. And makes good leftovers. If you use beer in the place of the wine, you have a beer cheese sauce for pretzels, or, a little thinner, the best mac and cheese you can put in your face.

Once you’ve mastered this sauce, you’ll find reasons to eat it. If you can get fresh, grass fed dairy, this is an incredible way to experience it. Don’t add a thing. Just good butter, good milk or cream, and a little flour, and you can taste every blade of grass and spark of sunshine the summer has to offer. Definitely share it with someone who will appreciate it with you.

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