Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Béchamel Mucho

Serves 2, 5 minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking

More mushrooms! This is a béchamel (BEH-sham-el) sauce good for sea creatures, pastas, poultry or the ocassional bloody steak. Cream sauces take some effort and care but are easy to cook alongside the main dish.

* 1 cup diced fresh brown mushrooms: portabellos, etc
* 1g dried porcini, crushed
* 2tbsp butter
* 12oz whole milk
* 4oz vegetable stock or 1/2tsp soy sauce or 1/2 to 1 cube vegetable boullion
* 1/2 tsp white flour or corn starch
* 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Warm the milk to about 40C/100F and dissolve the flour and stock/soy/boullion in it. Set aside.

In a medium pot sautee the mushrooms with butter over medium-low heat until they are shrunk to half size and most of the water is gone, about 15 minutes. Add the milk mixture and pepper and raise heat to medium-high, stirring pretty much constantly until it's nice and creamy. Don't let it sit too long.

What's going on here

Bechamel is a "mother sauce" that serves as a base for many many many recipes. The basic ingredients are milk, butter, and flour. Everyone has their own version and origin myths. The only thing they agree on is the need to rinse the pot immediately afterward.

Sauteeing mushrooms slowly releases their flavor better. If you have the time it really brings out their best. You want a nice brown beefy type of mushroom, not a fru fru oyster or those little white ones. The flour/starch should be completely dissolved in the milk so that it acts as a thickener without clumping. Constant stirring when it's in the pot aids evaporation and keeps the milk from boiling and separating. If you can scald milk and clarify butter properly, god bless you. The way I described is easier for us mortals.

You can optionally add a dollop of table cream or heavy cream, or even shredded cheese. The stock/soy/boullion give it salt and extra flavor. For seafood I like to add some shredded ginger on top.

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