Making the Perfect Bechamel Sauce

Béchamel, or "white sauce" as it is often referred to in America, is one of the French mother sauces and a valuable weapon for any cook to have in his arsenal. Making a basic béchamel could not be simpler, and it is a great starting point on which to build with other flavors. Though you may not know it, you have probably had béchamel many times.

One of the most common ways that béchamel sauce is used in American kitchens is baked macaroni. More often than not, the sauce originates as a béchamel and cheese is added from there. It is also often used in potatoes au gratin, fondue and lasagna.  

To make a béchamel, you first prepare a roux, equal parts flour and butter cooked together in a pan, and then you whisk in scalded milk. Common flavor additives are garlic, herbs and nutmeg, but the only three ingredients necessary for it to be a béchamel are butter (or some other kind of fat), flour and milk.

Basic Béchamel Sauce Recipe
Ingredients You Will Need:
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste (use white pepper if you want to preserve the color of the béchamel)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat up the milk almost to a boil in another pot. When the butter stops foaming, add the flour and whisk to combine, it is important to use a whisk and not a spoon. Once the rawness of the flour cooks out but it is still white, add the milk in a thin stream, whisking the whole time. You may need to recruit a partner to do this. Once all the milk has been poured in, bring up to a simmer, and turn the heat down to low. Season with the salt and pepper and the nutmeg, and simmer for about 10 more minutes. When it is finished simmering, use in whatever application you desire.

Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Ingredients You Will Need:

1 recipe basic béchamel sauce
¾ pound grated cheddar cheese, your favorite kind
1 egg
½ pound macaroni, cooked al dente

When the béchamel is finished simmering, whisk in the cheese a handful at a time, adding the next handful when the previous one has completely melted. When all the cheese is incorporated, take it off the heat, and allow to cool slightly. Add the egg, whisking quickly to make sure it doesn't scramble. Put the macaroni in a baking dish, and cover in the sauce. Stir to combine, and bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about half an hour, or until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Let rest for a few minutes before serving. 

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