[42] Béchamel

How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition by Mark Bittman

I can’t lie, I only made this recipe because I wanted lasagne and Bittman’s lasagne recipe called for it. Admittedly, I was also pretty thrilled to knock out three recipes in one go.

This does smell pretty good while cooking, I have to say. Also practicing my roux skills is always nice, since keeping it lump free is a big pain.

h2. Ingredients

2 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil (I used butter. No surprises here.)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 – 1.5 c milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper (Omitted.)

h2. Instructions

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat (if using oil, heat until hot). Once melted/hot, turn the heat to low and use a whisk to incorporate the flour into the fat. You’ll be whisking constantly, because you’re trying to get all the fat and flour to be buddies. No cliques (lumps) allowed. Keep whisking until the mixture turns tan (about 3 minutes).

Still whisking like a mad hatter, or constantly if you’re feeling demure, slowly add the milk a bit at a time. Once about a cup of the milk has been added, you’ll have a fairly thick, but still liquid mix. Add more milk a bit at a time until the mix is a touch thinner than you want. At that point, stop adding milk and keep cooking over low heat until the mix has thickened back up to your preferred consistency. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and either serve immediately or keep warm up to an hour in a double boiler (or a bowl set over gently simmering water).

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

Probably everybody reading this blog knows that the first step, heating the fat and then mixing an equal amount of flour in is making a roux. But in case someone didn’t, now it’s you do know.

For me, making a roux is pretty difficult because it requires constant whisking to prevent lumps; near continuous in fact. I have the patience for this, but I’m not usually fast enough to get it all together at once. Usually my “trick” is to add the flour somewhat slowly so I have a bit more whisking time.

Adding the milk is the next troublesome spot for me. Getting it incorporated requires that you just go slowly and whisk a lot. Call this the whisking recipe, if you will.

Final note: you probably want to add all the milk if you’re going to use it for lasagne, because I think it needs all of it. I wish I’d realized that before I only added a cup and not the full 1.5 cups.

h3. Consumption

No consumption notes because this is really more of an ingredient than something to eat straight.