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Besamel: Basic Greek Bechamel

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Basic bechamel (c) Jim Stanfield

Béchamel with salt, pepper, and nutmeg added

(c) Jim Stanfield

In Greek: μπεσαμέλ, pronounced beh-sah-MEL

This is the basic, medium-thick white sauce used in moussaka and melitzanes papoutsakia (little eggplant shoes). Increasing the ratio of butter and flour to the milk will result in a thicker sauce, and decreasing will make a lighter sauce.

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 cups hot whole milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • grated nutmeg
  • 1-3 egg yolks, beaten with a fork

Preparation:

In a saucepan, melt the butter on low heat. As soon as it melts, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps, and increase the heat to medium-low. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk, and continue stirring until the sauce begins to thicken - creamy without being too thick. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the egg yolks and return to the heat, whisking briskly until well blended. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

Yield: 2 cups

Variations

Thick Béchamel: (for use in au gratin recipes, filled pies, and croquettes) Increase the butter by 1 tablespoon, and the flour by 2 tablespoons. Leave everything else the same.

Thin Béchamel: (for use as the base for other sauces) Cut the butter and flour amounts in half. Leave everything else the same.

Multiplying the recipe: To make 4, 6, etc., cups of béchamel, increase all ingredients proportionately except the egg yolks. No more than three egg yolks should be used.

Storage note: Béchamel can be stored in the refrigerator for no more than one day. To reheat, use either a double boiler, stirring constantly, or the microwave. For the microwave, cover and vent, and heat on medium power checking every two minutes. Microwave heating time will depend on the amount of sauce and the oven's wattage.

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