Antonin Carême, a brilliantly innovative French chef, codified all sauces in the nineteenth century. These "mother sauces" are the basic foundations on which all other sauces are formed... the foundations, if you will: sauce béchamel (which/milk/cream based), velouté (white/veal stock based), sauce espagnole (basic brown) and sauce hollandaise (sabayon based). Once mastered, you may even find yourself speaking French...
4 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
1 3/4 oz AP flour
3 1/4 cups milk (whole)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg
Place 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp butter in a medium sauce pan and melt on low heat. When melted, add flour (sifted, to prevent clumps) and whisk stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the roux (equal parts butter and flour - thickening agent), becomes frothy and begins to bubble. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the milk in a separate sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat when boiling. SLOWLY add the boiled milk to the roux, whisking constantly... added off the heat. If added too quickly, the mixture will "break."
Return the pan to a medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. This will allow the starch to achieve full "thickening-power."
Lower the heat and season with salt, cayenne and nutmeg. Continue to simmer rand stir for about 10-15 minutes, until the sauce thickening.
Again... no one said it was easy, but TIME is your best friend in the kitchen... allowing flavors to develop, sauces to thicken and magic to be created with your own hands.
Once thickened, remove from the heat and strain through a chinois (stainer) and keep in a bain-marie (double-boiler) until ready to serve. Using the remaining 2 tsp of butter, dot the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming over the top of the sauce.
If not using within 30 minutes, then place the sauce in an ice-water bath in order to chill quickly. Leave the wooden spoon in the sauce, as it is cooling. Stir the sauce every 5 minutes... this will allow the heat to be released, cooling the internal temperature faster. Be sure you have cooled the sauce from 140º F to 70º F in 2 hours and from 70º F to 41º F within 6 hours. Why is it important to cool a sauce quickly? Bacteria, or other germs, need time, food and moisture (or wetness) to grow; but they won't grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 41º F or hotter than 140º F. The temperatures in between 41º and 140º are in the "Danger Zone."
This is not Top Gun. We are not wanting to take the highway to the Danger Zone... that's what airplanes and motorcycles are for
In the kitchen, safety is number one. Always.
More sauce fun to come...
Love y'all! xo