Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tips for an Alternative White Sauce

Making a good white sauce is something that seems simple at first, but all too often things can get complicated. The classic, and often inevitable, problem is a lumpy sauce, but it also could get too milky, too floury, have too many or too few spices or be too stodgy or too runny. The perfect white sauce exists—just never for us. The main reason why many attempts at making it at home fail is generally because the flour hasn’t cooked properly and doesn’t combine with the other ingredients, leaving a taste of flour pervading our lasagnes,
Alternative White Sauce
Alternative White Sauce
croquettes and cannelloni.

The ideal white sauce should contain about 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter for every 1 cup of milk (2:2:1)—you can scale the amounts up or down in the same proportions depending on what you need it for. The secret is to always sift the flour thoroughly and make a roux (thickness) with the butter. Once both ingredients have mixed together and cooked sufficiently, slowly add the milk and let the mixture cook slowly on a low heat, stirring the entire time without ever stopping.

However, there are numerous alternatives to this classic white sauce that work wonderfully in lots of dishes. They are sure to liven up our recipes and let us experiment with this lovely sauce to our heart’s content. We’ll also give you some tips for making a healthy, tasty alternative white sauce.

- Replace the full-fat milk with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. This cuts down on the calories and gives a lighter, healthier sauce.

- You can also replace the traditional flour with another kind: spelt flour, corn flour or even chickpea flour or rye flour, for example. You can also opt for wholegrain flour, which helps with digestion.

- Replacing the butter with extra-virgin olive oil is also an excellent idea, since an overbearing flavour of butter can spoil some stews. The method is exactly the same as with butter, but you mix the flour with olive oil and then slowly add the warm milk.

- People on a diet or keeping an eye on their figure don’t have to forego a lovely white sauce if they follow this effective low-calorie solution: replace the milk with a light vegetable stock, or even chicken stock. This wonderful trick is great for croquettes, since we can compensate for the extra calories we’ll inevitably be adding on when we fry them. With this version, we can experiment with different ingredients at will: a mild fish stock will be perfect for fish croquettes, whereas meat croquettes will need stock made from chicken bones or a hambone, and a vegetable lasagne will be the perfect match for a white sauce made with vegetable stock. What about the ideal white sauce for cured-ham croquettes? Although we could opt for the classic recipe, it’s worth heating the milk on a low heat with a hambone for half an hour before making it. This simple trick makes all the difference.

- White sauce with onion? Yes, please! If you poach a few onions in the oil or butter before adding the milk, you’ll give the sauce a delicious edge that will be particularly appreciated by those of us who aren’t exactly thrilled by the traditional flavour of white sauce.

- You can also replace cow’s milk with another vegetarian alternative, a highly recommendable option for everyone, although particularly for those who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk, with its strong flavor, is not the best option, but you can certainly use a rice milk with a far more delicate flavor. It’s a bit runnier than milk, so you may have to increase the amount of flour, but it will also aid digestion. Another great healthy option is oat milk, which you can make quickly and easily at home if you put your mind to it.

- Cheese fans can add their favourite cheese to their white sauce: either grated cheese that will gradually melt or pieces of low-fat cheese if you’re watching the calories.

- If you’re feeling adventurous, you could always add some curry powder at the end, and hey presto! This is the procedure you should follow in general with all spices: add all seasoning at the end. If you add it before the milk, it’s easy to muddle up the amounts. The range of spices you can use is limited only by your imagination, but we recommend a pinch of nutmeg or some cloves or black pepper.

- Cream can also work wonders in a white sauce, provided we use it wisely, bearing in mind the recipe in question. Simply replace some of the milk with an equal amount of cream to create a thicker, stronger white sauce that goes perfectly with dishes like cauliflower cheese; it’s not recommendable in dishes with lots of ingredients, such as lasagnes, which require a subtler, runnier sauce.

- What about dispensing with white sauce entirely? We could try making certain dishes without any white sauce at all—an increasingly common option in many modern recipes for lasagne, cannelloni and even croquettes. This often works just fine: there are other ways of binding ingredients together to make croquettes that don’t use any white sauce.

- One final option, which raises a few eyebrows and should certainly be used judiciously, is making white sauce with pureed tomatoes. You need to be very careful, because the tomatoes can easily swamp the flavour of the dish you’re cooking. However, you can make a truly mouth-watering baked pasta dishes with meat, vegetables and this kind of white sauce, with a gratin topping. Irresistible!


Barbara F. said...

Can you advise the amount of flour, second paragraph, please? It is missing.

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