Béchamel (pronounced: bay shoe mel) is a velvety smooth white sauce that can be used as is or turn it into a number of variations. You’ll love it because it is a fast way to turn a plain meal into a decadence followed by a string of compliments. Using bechamel as a base sauce, you can turn it into a white cheese sauce or cheddar cheese sauce. You can even add wine and/or cream. Your guests and family will surely be impressed.
Bechamel is one of five mother sauces. Stay tuned in for additional French mother sauce recipes and child sauces that use bechamel as a base.
Note: If you’re interested in learning how to make the gluten free ravioli in the photo, see the Gluten Free Butternut Squash Ravioli Recipe and substitute your favorite cheese and finely chopped cooked spinach that has been squeezed and patted dry. Then once you cook the ravioli, cover it in bechamel sauce, top with cheese, and broil until golden brown.
2 tablespoons clarified butter (or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or 2 tablespoons bacon grease or dairy-free margarine: Smart Balance or Earth Balance for vegan)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/8 yellow onion wedge, peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon (or less) ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (if you're a hater, omit)
In a saucepan, preferably non-stick, warm the milk over medium heat; set aside.
In a separate saucepan, add the clarified butter and warm over medium heat until it melts if not already.
Slowly add the flour a little at a time and using a wooden spoon, stir thoroughly before adding more. This is called a roux (fat + flour); cook at least one minute to soften the flour.
Add the warm (not hot) milk, a little at a time, to the clarified butter, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming.
Place the bay leaf on top of the rounded side of the onion wedge and stab together with a long wooden skewer or toothpick. Add the onion-skewer to the sauce and simmer 15 - 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens and slightly reduces in amount. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Once done, remove and discard skewer, onion, and bay leaf.
Season with a salt, white pepper, and nutmeg, to taste.
Transfer the saucepan to a cool burner until ready to use.
If the sauce becomes too thick as it cools, whisk in a little milk and reheat when needed. The sauce should never be too thin. If it is thin, it means you did not cook it long enough. When the sauce is perfectly cooked, it will coat the back of a spoon.
Use this sauce as is or to make other sauces by adding things like cheddar cheese; Parmesan and Gruyere; mustard, or mustard and cheddar. You can also substitute the milk for chicken, veal, or fish broth or chicken broth and cream. How about adding a splash of dry white wine and cream, or just the wine to the basic bechamel sauce? There are almost countless French variations.