A white sauce is just that – a sauce that’s white. It’s white because it’s made with milk, 1/2 & 1/2, or cream.
It was years before I dared make a white sauce; I assumed it was difficult for some reason. I remember calling up my mother and asking her how to make one, but she didn’t have an immediate answer, because cooking came so naturally to her. She simply added a little of this, and a little of that while cooking, and only followed recipes when making something completely new.
But she made a white sauce, just for me, and sent me the recipe. Trust me, after making a white sauce one time, you’ll never need a recipe again.
White Sauce, or Bechamel
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2, or cream
(this recipe can be doubled)
Have all of your ingredients ready; the sauce will not take long. All you need is a pot and whisk.
I like to use Wondra instead of regular white flour for sauces and gravies.
Place the butter in the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the flour and immediately whisk it into the butter until smooth. This is called a roux. Some people make a roux that is almost like a paste, but I prefer mine slightly thinner.
Let the mixture bubble and cook for about 30 seconds, whisking often. The cooking supposedly keeps the sauce from having a “floury” taste, but I’ve never tested this theory.
With the whisk in one hand, pour in the milk with the other and begin gently whisking. Don’t add the milk gradually; pour it all in.
If the milk/cream is warm, the sauce will form sooner, but cold milk/cream works just as well.
Hold the pot now with one hand and gently whisk; you will notice the mixture thickening. You can even remove the pot from the stove if you think the sauce is cooking too fast.
A few bubbles might form, but don’t let the sauce boil. It’s better to take a little more time to whisk the sauce than allow it to burn and stick to the pot.
Once the sauce has thickened, remove the pot from the stove. You have just made a white sauce.
Now for the fun part. Think of what you can add to your white sauce to make it, well, different! What about adding fresh herbs, or pesto, or tomato paste, or paprika cream, or curry powder!
Today I’m being indulgent and treating myself to a breakfast of goddesses – poached eggs with a white sauce.
A white sauce will work with any milk substitute as well, from soymilk to coconut milk, to hemp milk, to goat milk. However, the color of the sauce will change with the milk color.
It will turn into a cheesy white sauce if you add cheddar, fontina, or Parmesan to it. Any cheese works.
Besides salt and pepper, you can also add white pepper, dried herbs, nutmeg, cayenne, or just about anything you like.
Lastly, a browned butter white sauce is really flavorful, but keep in mind that the white sauce color will be brownish.
For a more scientific approach to making a white sauce, here is a link to Stefan’s white sauce on his blog, Stefan Gourmet.