Venturing into French cooking arena sounded very intimidating at first, but then I remembered all the familiar delights that I’ve cooked and devoured over the years; tarte Tatin, croissant, gratin , Ratatouille, quiche, crepes and the unmatched comfort of Béchamel sauce ! Suddenly the whole idea was not that daunting anymore !

Béchamel sauce is one of the Five French Mother Sauces; the other four are Sauce Tomat, Veloute Espagnole and Hollandaise.
The most common thickener for sauces is “a roux”…a mixture of fat and flour. White sauce and velouté sauce both use this base. It’s important to stir the hot fat and flour mixture and to allow it to bubble before adding the liquid. This allows the flour to absorb the liquid completely.
Many other luxuriant sauces are derived from this basic sauce; Cream Sauce, Mornay, Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Mustard Sauce and Nantua.
It adds a lush, glossy, creaminess to any ordinary dish and makes it taste so special ! A plate of pasta and chicken in white sauce is my ultimate comfort food !

For White Sauce or Béchamel Sauce :
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black or white pepper

This Is What You Do:

Heat milk with a bay leaf. Set aside till it comes to room temperature.
Heat butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until melted. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
Remove the pan from heat, discard the bay leaf, stir in milk. Though many recipes instruct to add hot milk but my experience in kitchen is that the milk should be at room temperature. If the liquid is too hot, the roux won’t have time to properly disperse in the liquid before the mixture comes to a boil; that will cause lumps in the sauce.
Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir till it thickens to desired consistency. This sauce is actually a test of your stirring skills.

Makes 1 cup sauce

Tips :
* To make Velouté Sauce use 1 cup chicken stock instead of milk.
* To make cheese sauce, stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese after boiling and stirring white sauce for 1 minute. Cook till the cheese melts.
* To make curry sauce, stir in 1/2 teaspoon curry powder with the flour.
*Add flavouring of your choice to milk; onions, mace, tarragon are a few I like.

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