Obey your mother


They still make them.  Who knew?

When I was a kid, there was a clothing line called Garanimals.  For fashion challenged folks, all you had to do was make sure the same animal was on the tags for both tops and bottoms.


Voila!  You had a matching outfit.  That’s flexibility.

Growing up in military families, every three years or so, Petey and I would be dropped into a new town and a new school, where with very infrequent exceptions, we knew nobody but our own families.

Within a few months or so, somehow, we made these places our home.  I honestly don’t know how we were able to keep doing it, over and over.  That’s adaptability.

Last week, talking about cream sauce, I mentioned a term; mother sauces.In classic French cooking, there are five mother sauces.  These are the Garanimals, the army brats of food.  With a familiarity of them, you can make just about any sauce for any dish you’d like.  They are the base for all that follows.

For each of the next five weeks, we’ll look at one sauce and talk about all the things you can do with them.

Since we’ve already started with cream sauce, we’ll just continue.

Known as béchamel, this is the one mother that most people, regardless of culinary ability, can make.  My Aunt Polly, who possesses something less than enthusiasm in the kitchen, actually makes a pretty delicious dish of creamed cauliflower (literally just béchamel over frozen cauliflower which has been microwaved).Just in case, here is the recipe again.

Classic White sauce (béchamel)

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

2 cups 2% milk

Salt & pepper

Put a saucepan on medium.  Melt butter and whisk in flour; this is a roux.  Let cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in milk.  Whisk constantly until it thickens and comes to a boil.  Season, taste, and season again.

Most of the time, I grate a bit of fresh nutmeg into the sauce.  It’s easy to go overboard, so I suggest no more than 15 gratings on a nutmeg grater or microplane.  I always use nutmeg in dark greens, and it’s wonderful with scalloped potatoes. For some really cozy, comforting scalloped potatoes, pour ½ cup of béchamel into greased casserole dish.  Thinly slice 5 cups of potatoes and layer them in the dish alternating with another cup of cream sauce.  Spread out the final half cup of béchamel on top and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes, uncover, and bake for thirty more, or until browned and bubbly.

Mix some parmesan into some hot cream sauce, and stir into some spinach that you’ve wilted in the microwave and drained of liquid.  Either serve as is, or put under the broiler with another couple tablespoons of parmesan.  It’s as good as you’d get at the best of steak houses.

Our creamy white friend is also the base for cheese sauce.When making the white sauce, whisk in a teaspoon or so of mustard powder.  After it comes to a simmer, stir in a couple cups of your favorite melt-able cheese.  My mom, who makes the best baked macaroni and cheese, always uses Velveeta for about a third of the cheese.  This gives you creaminess that won’t separate while baking.  I’d use at least 2 batches for each pound of pasta.

Next week we’ll take a look at another pale sauce, Velouté, which is more a jumping off place than a stand-alone sauce.

Oh, but the places it jumps to.Thanks for your time.

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