Béchamel Sauce


I could spends hours talking about this classic French white sauce. From the seasonings to the roux... I am channeling my inner Joy of Cooking with this building block. 

Béchamel Sauce
yields about 1 cup

1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 small onion, peeled and root end left intact
1 bay leaf
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt 

In a small heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk, onion, bay leaf and nutmeg (if using).  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes for the flavors to infuse.  Remove the onion and bay leaf; keep warm.

In a separate heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly golden in color. Increase the heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in warm milk. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking to prevent lumps, and cook for 5-7 minutes until thickened to a cream-like consistency.  Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any lumps; season with salt to taste.  Place a piece of plastic wrap over the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Sauce can be made up to three days in advance. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997

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