Monday, September 19, 2011

Mother Sauces and Comfort Food

It's getting colder at night.  Time for comfort food.-rich, creamy mac and cheese; scalloped taters; chicken pot pie, pasta with 'fredo sauce.  These all start with white sauce.  Even plain old sausage gravy for breakfast biscuits is white sauce.  Learning to make basic white sauce means that you can make all of these without using canned soup or other prepared food.

The slowly cooked fat and flour mixture that is called roux makes a superior product to any other method of making a white sauce.  Just because I cheat and only use about half the fat doesn't change the quality of end result.  This chart outlines sauce making really well.  (just decrease the fat to flour ratio if you want a lighter version.)  Making white sauce means that I control the salt, fat, and flavors that go into my final dish.

Enough of that.  Let's make a rich tasting, light dairy free white sauce for scalloped potatoes.  The rich flavor comes from using equal parts broth and milk in one volume of liquid - To make it taste rich either your milk or your broth must be dehydrated.

Savory White Sauce
1/3 cup fat (margarine, bacon drippings, olive oil)
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons Chicken base (Better than Bouillon is a favorite brand) or 1 quart Chicken Broth
1 quart Almond Milk or milk substitute powder equal to 1 quart (I do NOT like Rice milk in this)

In 4 quart or larger saucepan, (can use large skillet) melt fat over medium high heat.  Saute garlic and onions until just translucent, sprinkle with pepper.  Scraping and stirring all the while sprinkle the flour over the fat and vegetables.  Lower heat to medium cook the flour until it smells toasty and is a bit golden.(3 - 5 minutes)  Keep stirring!  It burns easily since there isn't a full amount of fat in there.  Here's where you need a fourth arm.  slowly pour the liquid (milk or broth) into the flour while stirring and scrapping.  You may switch to a whisk once the bottom of the pan is clean.  Add the dehydrated (milk or chicken base) component and stir well.  Raise heat back to medium high and bring to a low boil.  Keep stirring!  Cook one minute by the clock.  Remove from heat.

Scalloped Potatoes
6 russet potatoes (about 2 X 3 inches) sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup onion, chopped
Black pepper
Savory White Sauce (above)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Spray a 3 quart casserole with cooking spray.  Build layers of sauce, potatoes, onions, seasonings.  Finish with sauce try to cover all the exposed potato.  Bake at 400F for 45 - 60 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Cheese Sauce:  add 8 ounces melt-able cheese when white sauce boils.

Herbs: White sauce is blank canvas experiment.  We like basil, tarragon, or dill.

Sausage Gravy: Fry 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage in large skillet, breaking up into small crumble.  Remove meat, measure drippings and add fat to make 1/3 cup.  Continue with white sauce add cooked sausage back in at the end.  Increase onion, garlic, and black pepper if desired.

That should get you started.  I plan on doing chicken pot pie (biscuit crust) this next month so more then.

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