3 Takes on a Simple 'White Sauce'
You know white sauce. It can be used to make macaroni and cheese or pasta alfredo or as a topping for chicken or fish. It's the bastardized American term for all sauce white and creamy, and it is shockingly easy to make.
If you've read a handful of our blog posts here at The Postmodern Homemaker, you probably realize that we're big fans of making jarred and canned foods at home. Sure, you can buy a jar of alfredo from the grocery store, but I guarantee it'll be full of more sugar and salt than you should have in any given day. And, instead of costing cents to make, it'll be bucks. Not only is making your own healthier and cheaper, it also makes any mediocre cook look like a pro chef!
With those reasons in mind, here are three variations on making your own "white sauce" ... just make sure to call it by its fancy name to get that true pro feel. ;-)
Bechamel is known as one of the "mother" sauces, in part because it can be used as a base for other sauces and because it's delicious enough to eat on its own and goes with most pasta, poultry or seafood. It's also the base for our other two sauces.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch of salt, pinch of nutmeg
Make a roux by melting butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then sprinkle the flour over it, whisking until the mixture becomes a golden color and looks like sand. Slowly whisk in the milk and simmer until it becomes thick, stirring pretty much constantly. This takes about five minutes. You can tell when it's thick because the sauce will drag in the pan, producing spoon marks where you can see the bottom, and will stick to the back of your spoon. Want to make more than a cup of sauce? Just make sure you keep the same ratio of ingredients.
Alfredo sauce—or at least a quick version that won't win you any James Beard awards—is made by simply adding parmesan to the bechamel sauce you just made. After the sauce is made, simply stir in half a cup of parmesan. I like to add black pepper and fresh parsley as well.
And mornay sauce is just equal parts gruyere and parmesan added to that same bechamel sauce. Want to make anything "au gratin"? Simply add mornay sauce to it and throw it under the broiler for a few minutes until everything browns. Who knew this could be so easy, right?!
Want to get crazy with it? What about adding pepper jack and jalepenos to the basic bechamel to make a spicy Mexican sauce for shrimp or chicken? Or adding crab meat to the mornay to make some super-fancy mac and cheese? Once you have the base down, it's easy to play around to find your own combinations.
What's your favorite way to jazz up a simple white sauce? Tell us in the comments!