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Old 12-08-2006, 05:13 PM   #11
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Bechamel is definetly not a sauce you want to leave alone... especially not once you add milk to it. I find the best pan to use is a nice saucier. You really want to be able to control the temperature as much as possible, generally if If I have the stovetop space I keep two burners on at different temperatures (one low and one slighly above medium). I usually move the pan off one burner onto the other whenever I need to bring up the heat and use the other one to fall back on. Once you have the roux I add a all the milk in but I usually leave a lot out (always better to have a thick sauce you can thin than a thin sauce you can't thicken). During the thickening process it's all about intuition. You really just have to FEEL it as it goes and watch the temperature so it doesn't burn (which I have never heard of before until now). Best way to get a good feel is just to constantly stir and watch the way it thickens. If it is thickening too fast... move it to a lower temperature... if it's not doing anything then you bring up more temperature (slowly).
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Old 12-09-2006, 01:37 AM   #12
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I agree completely with Qzar and would only add that if one of your pans has a hot spot ... bechemel will find it for sure, every time!
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Old 12-09-2006, 03:25 AM   #13
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When making bechamel on a gas range, I find that a heat diffuser helps. Other than that, stir-stir-stir.
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Old 12-09-2006, 05:46 AM   #14
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in addition to using a heavy pan, lowering the heat after it comes to a boil and stirring constantly as others have mentioned, also make sure to make contact with the entire bottom surface, including the hard-to-satifactorily-reach corner of the pan where the bottom turns into the side. a whisk will do a better job than a spoon. lastly, just in case you're doing this, don't wait till it comes to a boil to start stirring. stir from the get go.
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Old 12-09-2006, 10:06 AM   #15
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Mine is initially made over medium heat, and I use cool milk/stock. Once the roux is ready, whisk with one hand while very slowly adding the milk. The cool milk should quickly absorb the heat of the roux/mirepoix/pan, and over a medium burner there should be little chance of burning. Once it's incorporated, I increase the heat to medium-high and whisk constantly until it visibly thickens and reaches a light simmer. Then it's back down to low/medium-low where I will add a sachet (normally i just add the stuff straight in, as i strain afterwords anyways) and barely simmer for 30min or so whisking every 2-3min to develop the flavor, texture, and viscosity I desire.

Same rules apply for veloute, pan gravies, and many other sauces. Just practice a few times, and by all means, practice with 2-C or 4-C batches rather than 1-gal.

The truely fun one to learn is a Beurre Blanc. I was lucky enough to catch onto that pretty quick, but I've tried to show people the technique before and it's really difficult for some - especially when you make an authentic one without the stabilizing cheat of adding cream.

It's all about heat management. Controlling the intensity of the heat source, understanding how it transitions into/through the pan (and into the sauce), and what the sauce does at various heat levels. There is a "lag" after you increase/decrease the heat, as the excess heat needs to flow from the burner to the pan to the sauce, or from the sauce, through the pan, to the burner/ambient air (in the case of a heat reduction).

Start slow. After you incorporate the liquid, bring it back to a simmer over medium heat. You will have to stand there and whisk for 10-15min, but there is nothing wrong with going slow the first few times... I did!
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Old 12-09-2006, 12:52 PM   #16
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Whenever I hear a question like this, I go back to basics.

Folks made darned good bechemel on wood fired stoves without stainless steel pans.

Have been in restaurants where they were cooking with pots that looked like the bottoms could not stand one more cleaning without having a gape. Yet they made a darned good product.

Put something in the oven and you can relax for a bit.

But anything on top of the stove needs watching.

Too much heat and the sauce burns. If you have a hot stove, put the pan down and move it off when it gets too hot and keep stirring.

Cooking to me is both technique and art. But without the technique, the art is lost.

Sorry if I am ranting, just feel a bit peckish today.
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Old 12-10-2006, 09:25 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auntdot
Whenever I hear a question like this, I go back to basics.

Folks made darned good bechemel on wood fired stoves without stainless steel pans.

Have been in restaurants where they were cooking with pots that looked like the bottoms could not stand one more cleaning without having a gape. Yet they made a darned good product.

Put something in the oven and you can relax for a bit.

But anything on top of the stove needs watching.

Too much heat and the sauce burns. If you have a hot stove, put the pan down and move it off when it gets too hot and keep stirring.

Cooking to me is both technique and art. But without the technique, the art is lost.

Sorry if I am ranting, just feel a bit peckish today.
I tend to agree with you. I'm not going to purchase $90+ pans when my inexpensive cast-iron and hand-me-down SS pans give me great performance. It's not the pans that make great food, it's the person using them.

I'm going to recap what was already posted. First, know what you are working with, sticky, starchy flour and fat. The flour, if heated too much will scorch, as will dairy products used in the sauce. So use moderate to low heat, just enought to simmer the sauce. Melt the butter or fat into the pan. Add the same amount of flour, and a pinch of salt, and whisk together until a smooth paste is formed. Then, add either cream, half 'n half, or milk (they all work) slowly to the roux. Continue adding liquid while whisking until the sauce has thinned to the consistancy you want to achieve.

Traditional seasonings for Bechemel are simply salt, and a bit of nutmeg. This is why it is one of the Mother Sauces. Once you have the Bechemel sauce made, then you add other flavors and ingredients, such as cheese, or pepper, or soup base. You throw in pearl onions and allow to simmer until the onions are tender and you have creamed onions. Throw in some Parmesano Regiano and you have something very close to an Alfredo sauce, though some would contend that Alfredo sauce is made with heavy cream, with no roux involved. I've had it both ways and they are both good.

If you use the same technique for making the roux, and thin it with the broth from split pea soup, and then add the sauce to the soup, it will suspend the solids and "bind" the soup.

There are so many small, or derivative sauces that can be made from Bechemel sauce, not to mention a host of chowders, creamed soups and veggies, creamed chipped beef, soufle's, etc. You can even, with some imagination and a bit of egg, or cornstarch, make your own tasty puddings that are cream smooth and yummy. Bechemel also makes a great starter for the cheese sauce for cheese macaroni.

As Aunt Dot said, it's not the pan, its the cook, and the technique used that makes for great Bechemel.
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Old 12-18-2006, 03:36 PM   #18
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Some people have taken to substituting bay leaves for the cloves/nutmeg. I saw Alton Brown do this and somewhere else. Has anyone else tried this?
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