Would you crave a cup of white sauce or hope that it is on the menu? Probably not, but you will find white sauce behind many fabulous dishes. If you want to be a really good cook, you must master the art of making a white sauce.
The basics are the same for all three types of white sauce. The difference is simply how thick they are.
The thickest type is used to make souffles and croquettes. For croquettes, the sauce is thick enough to bind together your fillings. The mixture is then rolled in crumbs and fried. Souffles have beaten egg whites folded into them to make them light and airy.
The medium white sauce is probably the one I use most. It forms the basis for homemade macaroni and cheese (my children prefer it to any boxed mac and cheese), creamed vegetables, cheese sauce (makes broccoli very happy), and more.
A thin white sauce is used for cream soups. Often part of the milk is replaced by stock in this case.
The three basic ingredients of a white sauce are butter, flour, and milk. It is possible to make a fat-free white sauce by eliminating the butter and using skimmed milk. The results are not as satisfactory, but if your diet requires it, it’s good to know you have the option.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt your butter. Use 2 tablespoons of butter for each cup of white sauce. Make sure you do not allow the butter to brown.
Next, stir in the flour. The mixture of the butter and flour is referred to as a roux (pronounced like rue). Use 1 tablespoon for thin white sauce, 2 tablespoons for medium white sauce, and 3 tablespoons for thick white sauce per cup of sauce you are making.
American style white sauce just requires that you mix the two completely together (or you will have lumps). In French style cooking, you will cook the flour a little while to eliminate a “raw” taste. Personally, I can’t taste the difference. Again, do not let the mixture brown.
If you are adding any spices (salt, pepper, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and so forth), you can add them with the flour.
The last step is to add your milk all at once. If you try to add a little at a time, you will end up with an almost impenetrable blob. So dump it all in and begin to stir. Some cooks prefer a whisk for this step.
At first, you will think that your sauce will be lumpy. But as the roux warms and as you stir, your white sauce will become very smooth.
Cook and stir over medium to medium-high heat until thick and bubbly.
To turn your white sauce into a cheese sauce, add 1/4 tsp. of salt, 1/4 tsp. of coarse ground black pepper, 1/8 tsp. red pepper, and a generous pinch of dry mustard. When the sauce is thick and bubbly, remove it from the heat and begin adding shredded sharp cheddar cheese, one small handful at a time, stirring after each addition. This method will keep your cheese sauce smooth. Use 4 oz. of cheese for each cup of sauce.
Use your white sauce to make ordinary vegetables turn into a designer dish. Here’s my family’s favorite holiday vegetable dish:
Creamed Corn and Peas Recipe
1 lb. frozen green peas
1 lb. frozen corn – try shoe peg, golden, or a mixture
1/4 cup butter (substitute margarine at your own risk)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
2 cups whole milk
Cook the vegetables according to the directions on the package. Drain well and keep warm while making the sauce.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until bubbly. Add the milk. Stir and cook until bubbly again.
Pour sauce over cooked vegetables. Stir and serve immediately.