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La Belle Cuisine - Basic White Sauce Recipes

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"Sauce, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment.
A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one
sauce has only nine hundred ninety-nine. For every sauce invented
and accepted, a vice is renounced and forgiven."

~ Ambrose Bierce

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La Belle Cuisine



“The French are credited with refining the sophisticated art of sauce-making.
It was the 19th-century French chef Antonin Carême who evolved an intricate methodology by which hundreds of sauces were classified under one of five
"mother sauces."
  Those are:

 Espagnole (brown stock-based) 

Velouté (light stock-based)

Béchamel (basic white sauce)

Hollandaise and Mayonnaise (emulsified sauces)

Vinaigrette (oil-and-vinegar combinations)”
(from The New Food Lover's Companion
by Sharon Tyler Herbst)


The French Family of Sauces
White Sauces (Sauces Blanches)

Mastering the Art of
French Cooking Boxed
Set: Volumes 1 and 2

Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck,
1961, Alfred A. Knopf
(most recent edition pictured above, Knopf)

“These stem from the two cousins, béchamel and velouté. Both use a flour and butter roux as thickening agent. Béchamel is moistened with milk; velouté,
with white stock made from poultry, veal, or fish.”
“…They go with eggs, fish, chicken, veal, and vegetables. They are also the
base for cream soups, soufflés, and many of the hot hors d'oeuvres.
Sauce béchamel in the time of Louis XIV was a more elaborate sauce than
it is today. Then it was a simmering of milk, veal and seasonings with an
enrichment of cream. In modern French cooking, a béchamel is a quickly
made milk-based foundation requiring only the addition of butter, cream,
herbs, or other flavorings to turn it into a proper sauce.
Sauce velouté is made in exactly the same way, but its roux is moistened
with chicken, veal, or fish stock, often with a wine flavoring. Milk or
cream are included if you wish.”

The roux

“In French cooking, the flour and butter, which act as a thickening agent
for the sauce, are always cooked slowly  together for several minutes before
any liquid is added. This is called a roux. The cooking eliminates that raw,
pasty taste uncooked flour will give to a sauce. And also prepares the flour
to absorb the liquid. The thickness of a sauce is in direct relation to the
proportion of flour you use per cup of liquid. The following table is based
on American all-purpose hard-wheat flour. All flour measurements are
for level tablespoons or fractions.

Thin Sauce or Soup -
1 tablespoon flour per cup of liquid
Medium, General-purpose Sauce -
1 1/2 tablespoons flour per cup of liquid
Thick Sauce -
2 tablespoons flour per cup of liquid
Soufflé Base -
3 tablespoons flour per cup of liquid

Cooking time

“Many of the old cookbooks recommend that a white sauce, especially a velouté,
be simmered for several hours, the object being to rid the sauce f its floury taste,
and to concentrate flavor. However, if the flour and butter roux is properly
cooked to begin with, and a concentrated, well-flavored stock is used, both of
these problems have been solved at the start. After a long simmering, a perfectly
executed velouté sauce will acquire a certain added finesse; and if you have the
time to simmer, by all means do so. But for the practical purposes of this book,
we shall seldom consider it necessary.

Saucepan note

“White sauces should always be made in a heavy-bottomed enameled, stainless
steel, Pyrex, porcelain, or tin-lined copper saucepan. If a thin-bottomed pan is
used, it is a poor heat conductor and the sauce may scorch the bottom of the
pan. Aluminum tends to discolor a white sauce, particularly one containing
wine or egg yolks.

A note on stocks for velouté sauces

“…Canned chicken broth may be substituted for homemade white stock
if you give it the following preliminary treatment:
Simmer 2 cups canned chicken broth or strained clear chicken and
vegetable soup with 3 tablespoons each:
sliced onions, carrots and celery;
1/2 cup dry white wine or 1/3 cup dry white vermouth;
2 parsley sprigs; 1/3 bay leaf; a pinch of thyme

Sauce Béchamel
Sauce Velouté

“This basic sauce takes about 5 minutes to make, and is then ready for the
addition of flavors or enrichments. Suggestions for these are at the end
of the master recipe.”

For 2 cups (medium thickness)

A heavy-bottomed, 6-cup enameled, stainless steel,
lined copper, porcelain, or Pyrex saucepan
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
A wooden spoon or spatula
2 cups of milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt heated
to the boil in a small saucepan
2 cups boiling white stock
A wire whip [whisk]

In the saucepan melt the butter over very low heat. Blend in the flour, and cook slowly, stirring, until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring. This is now a white roux.
Remove roux from heat. As soon as roux has stopped bubbling, pour in
all the hot liquid at once. Immediately beat vigorously with a wire whip
to blend liquid and roux, gathering in all bits of roux from the inside edges
of the pan. Set saucepan over moderately high heat and stir with the wire
whip until the sauce comes to the boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.
Remove from heat, and beat in salt and pepper to taste. Sauce is now
ready for final flavorings or additions.

[Note:] If not used immediately, clean sauce off inside edges of pan with a
rubber scraper. To prevent a skin from forming on its surface, float a thin
film of milk, stock, or melted butter on top. Set aside uncovered, keep it
hot over simmering water, refrigerate, or freeze it.

“If you follow the preceding directions, you will always obtain a smooth sauce of the correct consistency. But here are some remedial measures
in case you need them:

If sauce is lumpy:
If your roux is hot and your liquid near the boil, you should never have
a lumpy sauce. But if there are lumps, force the sauce through a very fine
sieve or whirl it in an electric blender. Them simmer it for 5 minutes.
If sauce is too thick:
Bring the sauce to the simmer. Thin it out with milk, cream, or stock,
beaten in a tablespoon at a time.
If sauce is too thin:
Either boil it down over moderately high heat, stirring continually
with a wooden spoon, until it has reduced to the correct consistency;
or blend half a tablespoon of butter with half a tablespoon of flour
(beurre manié). Off heat, beat the paste into the sauce with a wire
whip. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.

Julia's Classic White Sauces
from "The Way to Cook"

A Tribute to Julia Child
Happy 90th Birthday, Julia!
Julia Child in her own words...

Index - Basic Sauces
The Basics
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