It mazes me how many folks have trouble making a basic white sauce. To some it’s the easiest thing in the world. To others it is not. And I concede to the latter viewpoint. What is seemingly the easiest thing to make can turn into a holy mess. Too much flour and it’s lumpy. Too much milk or cream and it’s runny. Where is the happy medium? The French term for a basic white sauce is béchamel. Leave it to the French to fancy up something so simple. However, there are some things worth noting about this preparation. Almost all experts in the know agree on one basic point: when adding milk to the flour, the milk must be hot. This guarantees a perfectly smooth sauce. So take the time to heat up the milk in an extra pot if you have to. That means warming the milk over low heat until it forms little bubbles.
A basic white sauce, despite its humble origins, can enliven almost any dish. It can turn leftovers into marvelous entrées. Add it to scrambled eggs and you have a whole different meal. It can enhance everything from mac n’ cheese, to potato salad, to lasagna.
This is the Rivera family’s basic white sauce recipe. An old stand-by that’s been with us for generations, most likely through trial and error; and hopefully, will continue to grace our kitchen for generations to come.
BASIC WHITE SAUCE
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash of paprika
1. In a cup or small bowl, make a paste of the flour with 2 tablespoons of the milk.
2. Combine with remaining ingredients in a saucepan.
3. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until thickened.
Yield: 1 cup
Variations: If desired, you can add 1-2 tablespoons butter to the ingredients in the saucepan for a richer sauce. If you want to make it a cheese sauce, add 1/2 cup of your favorite grated cheese during cooking.