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Chef Essentials: White Sauce

Chef Essentials: White Sauce

The Culinary Institute of America

The white sauce family includes the classic sauces velouté and béchamel, both produced by thickening a liquid with roux. A classic velouté, which translates from French as “velvety, soft, and smooth to the palate,” is prepared by flavoring a white stock (veal, chicken, or fish) with aromatics and thickening it with blond roux. In Escoffier’s time, a béchamel sauce was made by adding cream to a relatively thick velouté sauce. Today, it is made by thickening milk (sometimes infused with aromatics for flavor) with a white roux.

Stock (veal, chicken, fish, or vegetable) or milk used to make white sauces may be brought to a simmer and, if desired, infused with aromatics and flavorings to produce a special flavor and/or color in the finished sauce. Blond roux is the traditional thickener for veloutés; blond or white roux may be used for a béchamel (the darker the roux, the more golden the sauce will be). The amount of roux determines the thickness of a white sauce.

Additional mirepoix, mushroom trim, or members of the onion family are sometimes added, either to strengthen the flavor of the sauce or to create a specific flavor profile. Cut them into small dice or slice them thinly to encourage rapid flavor release into the sauce.

White sauces scorch easily, and they can take on a grayish cast if prepared in an aluminum pan. Choose a heavy nonaluminum pot with a perfectly flat bottom for the best results. Simmer white sauces on a flattop for gentle, even heat, or use a heat diffuser if available.