A white sauce is perhaps the most commonly-used mother sauce for home cooks. Relatively low-fat, this sauce is often the base for creamy sauces used in gratins, macaroni and cheese, and with the addition of milk and herbs, the base for many pasta sauces. Easy and quick to make, this is a great culinary technique for any home cook to know.
The sauce is simply a roux (a mix of butter and flour) cooked into a clumpy paste, then cooked with milk until smooth and creamy. The butter and flour swell as they are cooked in order to thicken the milk.
The basic yield is as follows: 1 tbsp butter to 2 tbsp flour and one cup milk. I wanted 3 cups of sauce, so I used the measurements below.
*(Note: You can use 1% or 2% milk, but in order to get the creaminess and richness, I recommend using whole milk.)
3 cups whole milk
3 tbsp butter
6 tbsp flour
1 medium shallot or small sweet yellow onion
1 Bay leaf
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt & Pepper
Press clove into shallot/onion and place in a heavy bottom sauce pan with the milk and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and steep for 15-18 minutes, stirring regularly so that the milk does not scald on the bottom. You do not want to bring to a boil.
When the milk is piping hot and suitably steeped with flavor, make the roux. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat, turn down to med-low heat and add 1/2 the flour and whisk until paste forms, add remaining flour and continue whisking. Be sure to whisk out all lumps. Remove from the heat so that the roux does not brown. You want it to be a golden color. When milk is ready, remove onion and bay leaf. Return the roux pot to med-low heat and add milk one large ladle at a time, whisking until smooth. Continue adding milk and whisking until smooth each time until you have added all the milk. You don’t want any lumps.
Remove from heat and add salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste. The clove and the nutmeg give it the sweetness. You may need to adjust according to your taste.