Monday, December 28, 2009

Bechamel sauce, mmm

We just had an amazing dinner that took us less than 20 minutes - start to finish. None of the Rachel Ray crap, where she says it takes 30 minutes but that's if all your ingredients are pre-chopped and measured and the oven is already heated.

I started with jumbo seafood ravioli from our local Italian grocery store, Graziano Bros. Whenever I hear someone say something like "local Italian grocery store" I immediately think "we don't have a local Italian grocery store." If Des Moines has a local Italian grocery store, then I'd bet your city has one too. We lived here for years not knowing it was there and then for another couple of years knowing about it but never going. We missed out for a long time. But we finally made it there this summer and everything we have bought has been amazing.

Anyway, back to the recipe. We tried a couple of different sauces (some with really terrible results) before I found a recipe for b├ęchamel sauce that goes great with the seafood pasta. Here it is (with my own changes and contributions):

Ingredients:
4 Tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half (or milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pinch dried thyme
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in the onion. Cook for about a minute then add flour, salt and pepper.
2. Add cold half-and-half (or milk) and COLD chicken broth all at once. Stir well.
3. Cook, stirring frequently, at medium heat until thick. Remove from heat and stir in seasoning.

The great thing is, if you use milk instead of half and half, it is all ingredients you always have on hand. With milk, I found that letting the sauce cool for a bit before serving will help it thicken up. We had breadsticks with the pasta and it was perfect.

I am reading Julie and Julia - about the woman who spends a year cooking all the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I attribute my eventual success with the french sauce to the book.

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