Bechamel sauce is a basic white sauce and one of the 5 basic sauces. That means it is the starting point for making other sauces such as cheesy sauce. It is traditional to use white pepper to season bechamel because some chefs prefer not to see specks of black pepper in a white sauce but it is okay to use black pepper. Mastering bechamel sauce is useful to serve with pasta, steamed vegetables and making into cream soups.
- 2 ½ cups Whole milk
- 2 tbsp Unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup All-purpose flour
- ¼ Onion peeled
- 2 to 3 Whole cloves
- 1 Fresh bay leaf
- Kosher salt to taste
- Ground white pepper to taste (can be black pepper)
- Pinch Ground nutmeg
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You want it to be warm (around 110 F), not hot or boiling.
- In a separate heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until its liquefied.
- With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the butter, giving it a pale-yellow-coloured paste called a roux. Heat the roux for another minute or so to cook off the taste of raw flour. As with the milk, you don’t want the roux to be too hot. It should be moderately warm but not cold, either.
- Using a wire whisk, slowly add the warm milk to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure its free of lumps.
- Attach the bay leaf to the onion using the cloves, and add them to the sauce.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about 20%, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn’t scorch at the bottom of the pan. The resulting sauce should be smooth and velvety. If its too thick, whisk in a bit more milk until its just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the sauce from the heat. You can retrieve the clove-stuck onion and discard it now. Carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer. For an extra smooth consistency, line the strainer with a piece of cheesecloth.
- Season the sauce very lightly with salt and white pepper. Be particularly careful with the white pepper—and the nutmeg.
- Keep the bechamel covered until you are ready to use it.