It’s easy to make a robust cheese sauce from a base of creamy, delicate béchamel (BAY-sha-mell) sauce. Just stir the following ingredients into one quart of béchamel (you can substitute the cheese, e.g., if you want a Cheddar cheese sauce).
In addition to saucing proteins, starches and vegetables—and making a superior macaroni and cheese—it’s phenomenal for dipping hot pretzel nuggets at parties: A crowd tends to form around the bowl.
Bacon Béchamel. If you believe, as I do, that bacon makes everything better, you can go big and cook some bacon to add to the béchamel (finely chopped). Or you can whisk in bacon fat that you’ve previously reserved (I always save the drippings when I cook bacon and store them in a small plastic container that I keep on the shelf of my fridge).
If you’re adding bacon to your béchamel, go lighter on the salt, as bacon has plenty of its own.
If you know in advance that you’re going to make a bacon béchamel, start your roux with bacon, similar to the first step of making tomato sauce. Just render the bacon on medium heat until crispy, then begin to stir in flour to make the roux, and continue with the béchamel as usual.
You may need to supplement with a little butter if you run short on bacon fat and want to create more béchamel.
Roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and fiddlehead ferns on a bed of sauce suprême. Photo by JohnHerschell | Wikimedia.jpg
Sauce suprême is a very rich sauce that adds cream to chicken velouté. It’s the perfect “luxury” sauce for roast chicken or pork. One chef we know calls it “the most upscale gravy.”
Reduce the velouté by a fourth at a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Temper a pint of cream in a bowl. To do this, whisk a bit of the hot velouté into the cream to bring its temperature up. Then add it slowly to the simmering velouté.
Season with salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
Mushrooms. To make the sauce even more exciting, turn it into mushroom sauce by adding 4 ounces of sliced white/button mushrooms that have been sautéed in butter. If you add a tablespoon of lemon juice while sautéing the mushrooms, they will stay whiter and make your sauce that much more attractive.
Caramelized Onions. I like to add sweetness to a sauce suprême with caramelized onions (how to caramelize onions). Cook the onions to their sweetest, brownest, softest point (think French onion soup consistency) and stir them into the sauce along with any excess liquid in the pan.
Then use an immersion blender (or countertop blender) to purée them into smoothness. Between the richness of the cream, the sweetness of the onions, and the depth of flavor from the reduced stock, you end up with a unique and complex sauce that works well with any number of proteins, starches and vegetables.
There’s one more mother sauce/secondary sauce tip to go: demi-glace.