Although there are hundreds, possibly thousands of different sauces, almost all can be divided into a few major groupings. White sauce is one of these basic or "mother" sauces, from which many others may be prepared.
Depending on the proportions of flour and butter to liquid used in the preparation, white sauce can range from very thin to very thick. Medium white sauce is the type used to make sauces and creamed dishes. Thicker white sauce binds ingredients or forms the base of souffles; thinner versions provide the foundation for cream soups.
Use Nonaluminum Pan
Medium white sauce is prepared using 2 tablespoons fat, 2 tablespoons flour and 1 cup of milk. For best results, it should be prepared in a heavy, flat-bottomed, nonaluminum pan. Aluminum, unless anodized, is likely to turn the sauce an unappealing gray color.
(Thin white sauce uses one tablespoon fat, one tablespoon flour and one cup milk; thick white sauce, three tablespoons fat, three tablespoons flour and one cup milk.)
Place the butter in the pan and melt over moderately low heat (Step 1). Stirring the butter lightly with a wire whisk will help it to melt more quickly.
Whisk the flour into the melted butter (Step 2), creating a roux. Cook this mixture three to four minutes, stirring constantly, to remove the starchy taste of the flour.
Slowly add the milk (Step 3), whisking vigorously to keep the mixture smooth. Using a whisk instead of a spoon helps to avoid lumps. Continue to whisk the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil and thickens.
Herbs a Popular Addition
Almost any flavoring may be added to this basic sauce. Shredded Cheddar cheese, added a little at a time (Step 4), is one typical variation. American, Jack, Swiss, Parmesan, Fontina, Gouda or blue cheese may also be used. Fresh herbs, spices, mustard or mushrooms are other popular additions.
Whatever the flavor, the finished sauce should be moderately thick and smooth (Step 5). Should the sauce turn out lumpy, it may repaired by straining. Lumpy sauce may also be processed in a blender; however, this changes the thickness and texture.