You have heard the French terms for gravy, slurry and sauces, but do you really know what béchamel or veloute is?
I’m not sure my mother did either, but I can tell you that she made incredible gravy using her thickener of choice, cornstarch. Why not flour? Both cornstarch and flour are used as thickeners, but have some different applications and textures, and it’s sometimes just a personal preference.
Cornstarch for example, has twice the thickening power as the same amount of flour. It’s usually mixed to create slurry when combined with a cool liquid, then it’s added to either a cool or hot liquid ingredient with forming clumps and it will thicken quickly. You must still cook the cornstarch to remove the floury flavor from the sauce.
Flour is a thickener mostly used in creating a roux with equal parts of butter and flour. This method takes a little longer to thicken sauces than cornstarch and still must be cooked off to remove the flour taste. This roux based thickener is best used in sauces that take longer to cook, such as béchamel or veloute.
Béchamel is known as the “mother” of French white sauces. It is traditionally made by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white flour-butter roux (equal parts clarified butter and flour by weight). Another method, considered less traditional, is to whisk kneaded flour-butter into scalded milk. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour.
Veloute means “velvety white sauce”
Classic Velouté Sauce
Yields: 2 cups
1 1/2 cups white stock (veal, chicken, or fish) – white stock just means the bones were not roasted
2 TB unsalted butter
3 TB flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan.
2. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (don\’t let it burn) and add the flour. Raise the heat to medium and stir the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes. You are making the roux. Take a good whiff and it should have a pleasant toasted smell.
3. Whisk the simmering stock into the roux and keep heating and whisking. When the stock begins to simmer again, turn down the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens. A thin skin may form, just skim it away with your spoon. Depending on your stovetop, the sauce may take 5 – 10 minutes to get to your desired consistency.
4. Season with salt and pepper
5. Strain if you have a fine mesh strainer or chinois.
Béchamel sauce is also referred to as a basic white sauce. This sauce is great for making cheesebased sauces. This sauce is very easy to make and is the absolute best for making a great mac & cheese.
Yields: 3 cups
4 TB.All-purpose flour
4 cups milk
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, or about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.