Béchamel sauce (white sauce)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 30 grams clarified butter (around 2 tablespoons, or 35 grams unsalted butter)
  • 30 grams all-purpose flour (around 1/4 cup)
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1/4 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 to 3 whole cloves
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

Preparations

    step 1

    In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You just want it to be warm (around 110 F), not hot, and certainly not boiling.

    step 2

    Meanwhile, in a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat

    step 3

    With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the butter, giving you a pale yellow-colored paste called a roux. Heat the roux for another minute or so to cook off the taste of raw flour. As with the milk, you don't want the roux to be too hot. It should be moderately warm but not cold, either.

    step 4

    Using a wire whisk, very slowly add the warm milk to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it's free of lumps.

    step 5

    Attach the bay leaf to the onion using the cloves and add them to the sauce.

    step 6

    Simmer between 180 and 205 F for about 20 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about 20 percent, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn't scorch at the bottom of the pan. The resulting sauce should be smooth and velvety. If it's too thick, whisk in a bit more milk until it's just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

    step 7

    Remove the sauce from the heat. You can retrieve the clove-stuck onion and bay leaf and discard them now. Carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer. For an extra smooth consistency, line the strainer with a piece of cheesecloth.

    step 8

    Season the sauce very lightly with salt and white pepper. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Be particularly careful with the white pepper and the nutmeg—a little bit goes a long way.

    step 9

    Keep the béchamel covered until you're ready to use it.