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Cooking Basics - Béchamel sauce

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

That adage applies to cooking too! :) There are a few basics techniques that when mastered can be built upon to create more sophisticated and elegant variants and completely different dishes. Béchamel sauce belongs to this category. Fancy name apart, it is a simple white sauce made from butter, flour and milk. Simple Eh?! It is!

White sauce makes the base for gratins, pasta sauces and many cheese sauces. It is made by adding hot milk to roux, which, is made by cooking equal parts of butter and flour over low heat. And, what you can do with this base sauce is only constrained by your imagination...

Melt some cheese into it to lead into a Mornay sauce that goes great with seafood and is a good substitute for Hollandaise over eggs. Mix in some dried herbs and perhaps some minced spinach and it makes fantastic sauce to bake stuffed pasta in; rich and some health packed in. Add grated gruyere and chedder and you can transform it into a decadent cheese sauce for making even comfort food taste like a five star experience.

The possibilities are never ending.....

Basic White Sauce (Béchamel sauce)

3 T butter
3 T flour
3 cups whole milk

Heat milk in a pan till just under boiling. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and whisk to blend the flour into the butter to make the roux. Continue whisking for 3-4 minutes till the flour loses its raw smell. Pour the hot milk into the roux and continue whisking till the mixture is thickened and smooth.

Your white sauce is ready. Off the heat, add the optional ingredients (cheese, herbs, seasonings etc.) and you are all set for a wonderful meal!

It can't get any easier than that, can it?! :)

Note: The thickness of the sauce is determined by the ratio of flour to milk. To make a runnier sauce, reduce butter-flour to 2T.

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