14 Mar

Where to begin.  A starting point can certainly cause procrastination.  Or should I say an unknown starting point can cause procrastination, hesitation, and maybe overwhelm.  Here is some exciting news!  Today you can start to cook!  You can master a simple sauce from which to build on!   Here is the starting point so no more procrastination!  Away we go!

There are many elements to cooking.  And it is very different from baking.  I tend to think one enjoys either cooking or baking, but typically not both.  But that’s just me.  I love to cook, baking not so much.  To me, cooking is home, familiar, and comforting.  But baking is science.  A chemical reaction. And as someone who works in the field of clinical nutrition, I get my science at work!  When I come home, I want to cook.

Back to the elements of cooking.  There are kitchen basics, like what to have in the pantry.  Staples to have at all times.  Good pots and pans.  Cooking utensils.  And some basic know how.  An important basic of cooking is some knowledge of sauces.  White sauce is a “mother sauce” meaning it is one of the 5 basic sauces from which all others stem.  So let’s get to mastering that white sauce.  It is so easy and fun!

First, figure out how much sauce you will need.  I made a creamed chicken the other night for my 3 teenagers and myself.  I started with 3 cups of white sauce for that, and it was enough.  The great thing about this sauce though, is that it is so easy to adjust!  And I would rather have a pinch too much than to come up short, so I usually error on the side of making plenty.  Hey, leftovers rock!  The ratio of ingredients for this recipe is 1-1-1.

White Sauce:

1 T. butter

1 T. flour

1 cup warmed milk

Salt and Pepper to taste.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter.  Sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk it in to the butter.  Give that a minute to get well mixed and bubbly.  Then slowly, a little at a time, whisk in the milk.  Keep whisking over medium heat while it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.   That’s it.  The sauce is done.  You are off to the races!  If you need more sauce, do 2 Tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 2 cups of milk.  Or 3-3-3.  Yup, it’s that easy!

What can you do with a white sauce?  A million things!  First, you can simply use it as a wonderful sauce for vegetables.  I have added a drained can of baby sweet peas and used that as a sauce for fish.  It is colorful, flavorful, and has a nice texture.

As I mentioned, I made creamed chicken for my kids the other night.  So I made a white sauce, added some bell peppers that I had previously sautéed, cooled and blotted with paper towels.  I also tossed in a can of drained mushrooms and a jar of pimento.  I stirred that together then added cooked chicken that was in bite sized pieces.  I let that simmer for a couple of minutes over low heat to heat it all the way through.  I served it over freshly baked biscuits for a meal of pure comfort food!

Cooked seafood can also be added to this white sauce, fresh or canned.  I have served this over dainty little puff pastry cups for a pretty brunch dish.  You can sprinkle some parsley over the top for a colorful garnish.  The sauce was easy to prepare the night before and toss in the fridge.  It was super easy at the brunch to just heat and serve so it didn’t take time away from my guests.

This sauce becomes a Mornay sauce if cheese is added to it.  Now we are getting fancy!  I always use freshly grated cheese if I add it to a white sauce.  Add your favorite cheese, like swiss, cheddar, or parmesan.  It can then be tossed with pasta for a terrific side dish.  Or poured over broccoli.  Yeah, that’s right!  Get those kids eating something different!

As a child, I remember my mom making this sauce and adding torn up dried beef to it.  Armour dried beef in the glass jar.  Blue lid.  Hey Midwesterners, remember that?  She served it over toast.  My dad loved that meal!  There was a good midwestern middle of winter dinner for you alright!  But we were sure thirsty later on after that meal!  Dried meat is very tasty, but so salty!  No complaints though.  It was a family favorite and a budget friendly crowd pleaser.

Well there you have it.  Master this sauce and let your imagination run wild!  It can be even more versatile if the milk is replaced with stock.  I have used both chicken and vegetable stock in this recipe for a very tasty sauce.  It had a little less body that a sauce made with milk, but still very flavorful and certainly more healthy with less fat.  So go for it.  Throw in your favorite herbs.  Heat it up with a couple of different types of pepper.  Start with he basics and run with it!  Have some fun with this kitchen basic!

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