Bechamel is what is known as a mother sauce in cooking lingo. Basically, it is a white sauce that can be turned into practically anything needing something rich and creamy; such as alfredo. This simple to make sauce can be used for any dish and make it better than using heavy cream, milk, or corn starch. I’ve made this one myself and it is as easy as it sounds.
This sauce is made from a roux of butter and flour cooked in milk. If you can make white gravy, you already know how to make this sauce. Instead of sausage or bacon drippings, you put in cheese to make the best mac and cheese ever, or let it thicken further to use in lasagna. It all depends on what you put into it for the dish you want.
To go a little further, the term ‘mother sauce’ means it is the base of a huge variety of different sauces. Add in onion stock, or beef stock for stroganoff, cheeses for alfredo or even a macaroni casserole. It all starts with this very basic recipe. There are several different kinds of mother sauces used in cooking. Many have been shown on Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible with Chef Robert Irvine. But, it was watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives that I saw a bechamel being made and used.
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. 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.