Béchamel Sauce

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A basic French white sauce made by adding hot milk to a white roux (heated butter mixed with flour). In an early era, cream was generally used instead of milk. The roux thickens the milk into a creamy white sauce. Some sauces refer to a blonde and a white roux, the difference being the length of time the flour or mixture was allowed to cook and thus become brown, or golden tan in color. Seasonings can be added based on the type of dish served with the sauce and the flavors desired.

A typical béchamel sauce begins by melting 3 or 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan on low heat and then mixing in 3 tablespoons of unbleached, all purpose flour. Turn the heat up to medium and cook the the mixture (referred to as the roux), allowing it to bubble but not turn brown as it cooks for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk or stir the hot roux gently, letting it cool slightly and begin to add 1½ cups of milk, whisking the mixture so it becomes very smooth and thickens by whisking, which may take 4 to 5 minutes. Seasonings such a a dash of salt, pepper, paprika, and nutmeg can be added as the sauce becomes smooth. If necessary, more milk can be added to thin the mixture. Remove the sauce from the heat and use it to pour over vegetables, pasta, poultry or fish dishes.

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