Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

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Of the five classic French "mother sauces," béchamel gives us some of the most rich "small sauces". Although béchamel may be the most simple to prepare, that doesn't mean it can't also show off some pretty complex flavors. Taking the time to create layers of flavor in the building blocks of a recipe ensures that the sauces and dishes created from those blocks will build palaces of flavor.

As the recipe below demonstrates, there are not many ingredients in the basic béchamel sauce; just milk, roux, and the onion cloute. An onion cloute is an onion studded with cloves and a bay leaf, and although I've seen some recipes call the cloute optional, it is not. The onion cloute is essential, as it is the only flavor added to the milk besides butter. An Italian chef I once worked for insisted that a béchamel was never complete without a bit of nutmeg, an ingredient that was conspicuously absent from béchamel recipes in my traditional French culinary education. Once I tasted his version, I never again made my béchamel without a dusting of freshly ground nutmeg to finish it. Never, that is, until a few weeks ago when we were lucky enough to get the first shipment of mace blades we've been able to secure in years. I had always used a mixture of mace powder as well as a little extra freshly grated nutmeg when making creamed spinach from a béchamel base, but I had been reluctant to to try including mace powder in every batch of my béchamel for fear of the flavor being overpowering. This is a perfect application for mace blades! By adding a nice mace blade or two to my onion cloute, I could get the subtle mace flavor I was looking for without overshadowing other flavors.

Béchamel itself is used in many recipes for lasagna, croque madames, or soups, but there are quite a few other sauces that can be derived from a basic béchamel, often by adding just a few ingredients. The French call these "small sauces" and some of my favorites are: Cheddar cheese - add some shredded cheddar cheese, Mustard Powder, and worcestershire sauce or Worcestershire powder. Mustard sauce - add someprepared mustard. Crème Sauce - just whisk in some heavy cream (I also like to add a heavy pinch ofPiment d'Espelette.)
Yields
1 servings
Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

Ingredients

For the Béchamel:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Freshly grated Nutmeg 

For the Onion Cloute:

Directions

For the Onion Cloute: Push the cloves through the bay leaf and mace blade and into the onion as shown in the picture above. Add the onion cloute to the milk and scald the milk by bringing it to just below a boil.For the Béchamel: In a separate heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux until very lightly colored.

Whisk the hot milk into the roux one cup at a time, carefully transferring the onion cloute.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly.

Grate nutmeg into the sauce, if using.

Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the onion.

Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

COOK TIME:

For the Béchamel:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Freshly grated Nutmeg 

For the Onion Cloute:

For the Onion Cloute: Push the cloves through the bay leaf and mace blade and into the onion as shown in the picture above. Add the onion cloute to the milk and scald the milk by bringing it to just below a boil.For the Béchamel: In a separate heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux until very lightly colored.

Whisk the hot milk into the roux one cup at a time, carefully transferring the onion cloute.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly.

Grate nutmeg into the sauce, if using.

Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the onion.

Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

Of the five classic French "mother sauces," béchamel gives us some of the most rich "small sauces". Although béchamel may be the most simple to prepare, that doesn't mean it can't also show off some pretty complex flavors. Taking the time to create layers of flavor in the building blocks of a recipe ensures that the sauces and dishes created from those blocks will build palaces of flavor.

As the recipe below demonstrates, there are not many ingredients in the basic béchamel sauce; just milk, roux, and the onion cloute. An onion cloute is an onion studded with cloves and a bay leaf, and although I've seen some recipes call the cloute optional, it is not. The onion cloute is essential, as it is the only flavor added to the milk besides butter. An Italian chef I once worked for insisted that a béchamel was never complete without a bit of nutmeg, an ingredient that was conspicuously absent from béchamel recipes in my traditional French culinary education. Once I tasted his version, I never again made my béchamel without a dusting of freshly ground nutmeg to finish it. Never, that is, until a few weeks ago when we were lucky enough to get the first shipment of mace blades we've been able to secure in years. I had always used a mixture of mace powder as well as a little extra freshly grated nutmeg when making creamed spinach from a béchamel base, but I had been reluctant to to try including mace powder in every batch of my béchamel for fear of the flavor being overpowering. This is a perfect application for mace blades! By adding a nice mace blade or two to my onion cloute, I could get the subtle mace flavor I was looking for without overshadowing other flavors.

Béchamel itself is used in many recipes for lasagna, croque madames, or soups, but there are quite a few other sauces that can be derived from a basic béchamel, often by adding just a few ingredients. The French call these "small sauces" and some of my favorites are: Cheddar cheese - add some shredded cheddar cheese, Mustard Powder, and worcestershire sauce or Worcestershire powder. Mustard sauce - add someprepared mustard. Crème Sauce - just whisk in some heavy cream (I also like to add a heavy pinch ofPiment d'Espelette.)
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