When I began culinary school, I have to admit I really felt like a complete fish out of water. I was about 10 years older than almost everyone else in the class (I started when I was 31), and most of them had already done some work in restaurants. I came from Corporate America, the most restaurant experience I had was working the front counter of McDonald’s during summers in high school. I felt so overwhelmed after the first day that I made my two-hour commute home from the city fighting back tears. What had I gotten myself into? Did I make the wrong decision? The second day was better, but it was on the third day that things really turned around. We were working on classic French sauces in this lesson, and I was cooking bechamel sauce when our instructor came over to my station. He took a taste and said it was perfect, then made everyone else in the class come over to take a taste. That was the first moment that I felt like I could do it, and that I belonged there. So bechamel sauce will forever have a little special place in my heart. It’s the classic French mother sauce for so many other sauces, like Mornay. I’ve used it many times in lasagnas, as well as the most fantastic base for homemade mac and cheese.
From there, the possibilities were endless! Bechamel sauce is so incredibly versatile. I’ve used it in lasagnas, mac and cheese sauce, over steaks, you name it. This recipe is also foolproof and comes together quickly. Enjoy friends, the handy printable is just below!
- 1/2 a small onion peeled
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 4 whole cloves
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups almond milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Form a classic onion pique first. Lay the bay leaves across the open face of the onion half. Secure them in place with the cloves by sticking the cloves through the bay leaves into the onion. Set it aside.
- In a saucepan combine the butter and flour. Heat it over medium high heat and whisk them together until the mixture is smooth to make a base roux. The flour should be completely cooked off and the mixture should be golden, which will take about 2 minutes. While continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the almond milk until there is a smooth sauce. Add the onion pique, salt and nutmeg.
- Let the bechamel sauce come to a gentle bubble, then reduce the heat to low. Allow it to cook and thicken for 20 minutes, stirring often to keep it as smooth as possible. When the sauce is done, pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a heat proof bowl to make it even more smooth and luscious.
- This will keep for a day sealed in the refrigerator if you would like to make it ahead. Use it in lasagna, mac and cheese sauce (just remove the onion pique and whisk in your favorite cheeses for an incredible sauce. Skip the straining step.), and anything else your heart desires!