Béchamel is considered the mother of all sauces. She is where it all starts. If you want to make a creamy soup? Start with a béchamel. You want a gravy? Béchamel. You want a creamy pasta sauce? BÉCHAMEL! (You get the idea.)
It all starts with the roux, a mixture of equal parts fat and flour. In my case, I always use unsalted organic butter. I prefer unsalted because I can control the sodium in my dish and therefore the sodium intake of my family. You can always add salt, but once it's added, it's difficult to manage. Always go for unsalted!
BASIC BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cup milk
- Heat pan on a medium low heat and melt butter. Keep mixing with a whisk so it doesn't burn.
- Slowly add equal parts of flour and mix. The goal is to cook it, but do not let it turn brown or burn, or else your sauce will be brown. This should take less than 5 minutes to do.
- Once mixed well, gradually add milk and mix. You can adjust the amount of the milk for the consistency you want.
- Add seasonings! White pepper, salt, bay leaves, nutmeg. Whatever you like, feel free to add!
Personal tip: I personally like to use dry powders because they're easy to use and don't spoil easily. Depending on what kind of sauce I am making, I add different seasonings. For white pasta sauce, I always add nutmeg, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. For gravy, I add salt, garlic, and white pepper. For Mac and cheese, I add salt, garlic powder, mustard powder, and mild cheddar cheese. The seasonings change as the dishes change.
Of course, you can always choose to sauté fresh garlic and shallot with the butter before you add the flour, blitz with a processor, with fresh nutmeg grated on top as a finishing touch. It's up to you!