Red sauce is easy: season your oil, drop in crushed red tomatoes, and simmer until thickened. That’s not a cooking lesson. White sauce, though – that was always a mystery. (I’m asian, so we didn’t grow up with cream-based anything.) I watched cooking shows on PBS where chefs in white toques whipped up bechamel and magically turned it into delicious sauces.
Then, one day, I found out that equal parts of fat + flour mixed with a cup of milk IS bechamel.
Today’s lesson: Bechamel and Roast Veg
What’s a roux? Fat and flour cooked together in equal proportions.
What’s a bechamel? A fancy name for roux with 1 cup of milk added.
How can you alter a bechamel? The proportions of your roux. At 1 Tbs, it’s a thin gravy. At 2-3 Tbs, it’s sauce.
We talked about the different things you can do with a white sauce – use leftover fat from sausage patties instead and you have sausage gravy for biscuits. Add cheese and you have sauce for macaroni – which is what we did for today’s lesson.
Today’s lesson, pt 1: Cheese sauce
Step 1: Make a roux (melt 4 Tbs butter, stir in 4 Tbs flour)
Step 2: Slowly stir in 2 cups milk until smooth.
(Note: why 4 Tbs of butter and flour? Note that we are using 2 cups milk, so the proportion is still 2 Tbs fat/flour:1 C milk.)
Step 3: Season. Salt and pepper to start. Technically, by adding cheese we’re turning this into a mornay, so to boost the flavor we also added 1/2 tsp ground mustard. Then we started adding cheese, stirring in by handfuls until melted. Resist the temptation to add all the cheese at once; it has a tendency to separate and become grainy.
Today’s lesson, part 2: Roast vegetables
We sautéed vegetables previously. Steamed vegetables are good, but overly simple. Roast vegetables, though, can turn pariah sprouts into a dish your kids devour unquestioningly.
And the fact that they’re easy peasy doesn’t hurt.
What happens when you roast vegetables? They caramelize.
Well, what’s caramelizing? A reaction induced by the application of heat. The naturally-occurring sugars in the vegetables start to cook, while the water cooks off. Tips become crispy, and darkened parts become sweeter. At the same time, the thicker parts soften as the interior cell walls break down.
Step 1: Heat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Step 2: Prep your vegetables. We went with broccoli and Brussels sprouts, two plants famously shunned by, well, everyone. Wash, and chop into roughly equally-sized pieces.
Step 3: Oil ’em up. Place vegetables in a large bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. No need to be exact, just toss them around to coat until they look kind of shiny.
Step 4: Spread vegetables on the baking sheet and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Into the oven.
Step 5: Roast about 25 min. Start checking at 20 minutes. They’re done when the tips are dark but stems are soft.
00:00 Preheat oven to 425 F. Start boiling a pot of hot water to cook macaroni.
00:05 Wash vegetables and start chopping.
00:10 Pot should be boiling. Drop in macaroni, stir to prevent sticking.
00:15 Oil and season the vegetables. On the tray, into the oven. Start heating one pan for the bechamel demonstration, start melting butter for mac and cheese topping in a small pan.
00:20 Start the roux. Send someone to drain the macaroni.
00:25 Add the milk for the bechamel, season. Have someone mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter.
00:30 Add the cheese to bechamel (now it’s mornay). Combine with macaroni in your serving dish, top with crumbs. Into the oven.
00:35 Start cleanup.
00:40 Check the vegetables, they should be ready to come out now. If the crumbs are browned on the mac and cheese, it can come out as well. While it cools for 5 minutes, finish cleanup and set out dishes to eat.