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La Belle Cuisine
French are credited with refining the sophisticated art of sauce-making.
It was the 19th-century French chef Antonin Carême who evolved
an intricate methodology by which hundreds of sauces were classified
under one of five
Béchamel (basic white
(from The New Food Lover's Companion
by Sharon Tyler Herbst)
The Classic White
Béchamel and Velouté
The Way to Cook
© 1989 by Julia Child (Alfred A.
“These are the old standbys of home cooking, and you will use them countless
times in one guise or another – for baked vegetables, for egg and fish dishes,
in cream soups,
and so forth. Flour-based sauces have a bad reputation
they are too often carelessly put together, but there is no excuse for
floury-tasting sauces when they are so very easy and quick to make.
essential, really, is the initial cooking together of the thickening
the flour-butter paste – the white roux.”
White Sauce – Cream Sauce – Béchamel Sauce
For 2 cups of
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon salt and several
grinds of white pepper
Special Equipment Suggested:
A heavy-bottomed 2 1/2-quart stainless saucepan for the sauce;
a wooden spatula or spoon; a small saucepan for the milk;
a wire whisk
The white roux. Melt the butter in the 2 1/2-quart
saucepan, then blend
in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth somewhat
Stir over moderate heat until the butter and flour foam together
minutes without coloring more than a buttery yellow. Remove
Adding the milk. When the bubbling stops, in a few seconds, pour in all
but 1/2 cup of the hot milk at once, whisking vigorously to blend tho-roughly.
Then whisk rather slowly over moderately high heat, reaching
all over the bottom
and sides of the pan, until the sauce comes to the simmer; simmer
2 to 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon and thin-
ning out the sauce as
necessary with dribbles of the milk. The sauce
should be thick enough to coat a
spoon nicely. Whisk in the salt and
pepper, tasting very carefully
and adding more as needed.
Ahead-of-time note: To prevent a skin from forming over
the sauce, (1) whisk it every few minutes until it has cooled, or (2)
surface with milk - spread a tablespoon or so of it over the
surface of the
sauce with the back of a kitchen spoon – or (3) press
a sheet of plastic
wrap right down onto the surface. The sauce will
keep 2 to 3 days under
refrigeration or may be frozen.
For a thicker or thinner sauce
Thin sauce, such as for cream soups:
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 tablespoon butter per cup of milk.
Thick sauce, such as for cheese soufflés:
1 1/2 tablespoons butter per cup of milk
For a lighter or richer sauce, use skim milk for the
former, or, for a
rich sauce, use half-and-half or whisk several tablespoons of butter
the finished sauce.
First aid for a lumpy sauce: Push it through a mine-meshed
then whirl it in an electric blender, and finally whisk it over heat until
simmers a moment.
vegetables, fish, and white meats
This is exactly
the same as white sauce except that, rather than
you use vegetable, fish, or meat juices or stock, plus
milk and/or cream if
called for. [Click
here for a
Make either a white or a velouté sauce, and let it cool several
before whisking it grated cheese. Proportions are usually 1/4 cup of cheese per
cup of sauce, and the cheese is usually Swiss, although you may use
any kind you wish. Usually, too, a speck of nutmeg is included.
First aid for stringy cheese sauce: When cheese is added
to a very hot sauce the sauce can become stringy – Swiss cheese is often the
here. To remedy, bring it to the simmer whisking in drops of lemon juice
or dry white wine – a tip from our late great American culinary authority James
Beard – and it usually works.
Classic White Sauces from
"Mastering the Art of French Cooking"
A Tribute to Julia Child
Happy 90th Birthday, Julia!
Julia Child in her own words...
Index - Basic Sauces
Classic French Recipe
Daily Recipe Index
Recipe Archives Index