Changing a dish from good to great can be as simple as a sauce to enhance the flavors. The French are masters of creating perfect sauces and by learning their technique we understand how the sauces break down into families. Once you master the base recipe for a family then you can adapt it and utilize it to create many different sauces of the same style.
The basic families of sauces are White (Blanches), Brown (Brunes), Tomato (Tomate), Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Oil and Vinegar (Vinaigrettes), and Butter (au Beurre). There are other specialized sauces that do not fit into these families, but primarily most sauces are classified in this list.
This month we will look at the Sauce Blanches or White sauces. Every good Southern cook is familiar with this style of sauce because it serves as the base for white sausage gravy to pour over fresh hot biscuits.
At a basic level all white sauces are made with a roux (butter or oil and flour cooked together) then milk, for a béchamel or a white stock, (chicken, veal or fish) for a velouté is added to create the right consistency.
To create the roux flour and butter are slowly cooked together for several minutes. This transforms the flour from paste and allows it to absorb the liquid to be added. A heavy bottomed sauce pan should be used to keep from scorching. (Never use aluminum, it’s bad for you, and it can discolor the sauce)
Some simple rules for the roux; for a thick sauce use 2 Tb flour per cup of liquid, for a general purpose sauce use 1 ½ Tb per cup, and for a thin sauce use 1 Tb.
Sauce Béchamel / Sauce Velouté
• 2 Tb Unsalted Butter
• 3 Tb flour
• 2 Cups milk or 2 cups of white stock
• Salt and white pepper
In a small sauce pan warm the milk or stock to a boil. At the same time in a medium saucepan melt butter over low heat, add the flour and stir allowing the butter and flour to foam for about two minutes.
Remove the roux from the heat and add the liquid, utilizing a wire whip beat the mixture and return to a medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for approximately one minute.
Remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with Salt and white pepper. It is ready to be used as is, or it can be enhanced with additional butter, cream or egg yolks.
If the sauce is lumpy it is because the liquid added to the roux was not hot. To correct this force the sauce through a fine sieve or use a blender to smooth it, then simmer the sauce again to bring back to temperature.
If the sauce is too thick, bring the sauce to a simmer and add additional liquid (milk or stock) by tablespoon until the right consistency is obtained.
If the sauce is too thin, either boil the sauce down to the right consistency over medium heat or remove sauce from heat, blend ½ Tb of butter with ½ Tb of flour in a separate bowl and add to the sauce whisking to smooth then return to the heat and boil for 1 minute.
Butter, use 1 Tb of butter stirred into the sauce in small pieces just before serving
Cream, use ½ a cup added to a thick white sauce and a few drops of lemon juice, add butter as above
Egg Yolk, blend 2 yolks with ½ cup of whipping cream, very slowly whisk ½ cup of the white sauce into the egg mixture, then slowly add this mixture back to the rest of the sauce, this may need to be strained through a sieve to remove any bits of egg white that may have clung to the yolk. If the sauce is too thick add more cream by tablespoon till the right consistency is reached. Optionally add the butter as above.