I genuinely thought that nowadays NOBODY made a white sauce using the 'roux' method - you know the one where you melt butter in a pan, whisk in the flour letting it cook for a few moments and then gradually add the milk to complete the sauce. Turns out I'm wrong.
Years ago (perhaps almost 20 years ago - gulp), I remember chatting with a Dad at school pick up and somehow the conversation got on to making a white sauce … you know me, I tackle the big stuff. He was most dismissive of my suggestion that there was a better way than the 'oh so steeped in traditional French culinary practices' roux method and did a great job of rubbishing my suggestion that all-in-one was the way to go. Of course, I challenged him to give it a try and it was no surprise to me that he returned the following day as a convert.
The all-in-one method really is so much easier and (I hesitate to say this) foolproof, which is why I'm amazed that everyone isn't doing it. May I try to convert you?
How to make a white sauce the all-in-one way
- Add 1 litre (4 cups) milk, 75g (3oz) cubed butter and 50g (2oz) plain flour to a medium saucepan.
- Over medium heat whisk constantly using a balloon whisk until the butter melts and the sauce thickens, becoming smooth and creamy. This will take about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 2 minutes, whisking continuously.
- Season and add any flavourings.
- It really is that easy ♡
What I have learned about making an all-in-one white sauce
- I use any plain flour that I have handy. At the moment I have the dregs of a bag of Strong White Flour hanging around, so I've been using that.
- You can use a vegetable spread and a plant based milk, but I have found that the taste does alter a little. For example, when I use a sweetened soya milk, I need to balance the sweetness with some mustard or the sauce tastes more like a dessert!
- Use white pepper rather than black, if the little black specks annoy you. I must admit that I'm not troubled by them.
- A non-stick saucepan works best but use a silicone covered balloon whisk to prevent scratching. My pans are so old and knackered that they are already 'scratched' to within an inch of their lives so I use a metal whisk and don't worry about it.
- The secret to this method is to keep whisking - gently is fine but be sure to get into the edge of the pan to avoid any sneaky lumps forming. There's no 'technique' to this, just be thorough and consistent with your whisking - nothing more than that.
- The contents of your pan may look horrific at the start but soon the flour mixes into the milk and the butter melts and then it's easier to see that you're on the way to success.
- The sauce thickens quite a lot as it cools. The measurements in the recipe make quite a loose sauce (that's how I prefer it) adjust to less milk if you like it thicker.
- You can make your white sauce in advance. I use a piece of cling film and lay it directly over the sauce (while it's still hot) to prevent a skin from forming. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
- Any leftover white sauce also freezes nicely. I tend to even freeze fairly small quantities because a touch of cheese sauce can convert some roasted cauliflower into a lovely side dish very easily. The sauce will look a bit lumpy when defrosted but it smooths beautifully when heated.
How about flavourings?
Add the flavourings at the end when the sauce is cooked and perfectly seasoned. Grated cheese is lovely, as is mustard (powdered, smooth or wholegrain). I add grated nutmeg if I'm making a lasagne (I don't like the sauce to be overpoweringly cheesy) and might also sometimes add fresh herbs like parsley and tarragon for things like fish dishes.
How to use an all-in-one white sauce
My top 3 uses for a white sauce are -
- Lasagne - I often do just nutmeg for this (particularly for a meat lasagne) and save the cheese for on the top.
- Macaroni Cheese - I add the grated cheese at the end and save a sprinkling for the top.
- Cauliflower or Brocolli Cheese - I love this side dish. Mostly I will roast the cauliflower or brocolli, perhaps mix in some sautéed lardons, pour over the sauce and then finish with a cheesy breadcrumb topping.
Do you already use the all-in-one method? If not, I hope you might be curious and give it a try. That Dad in the playground 20 years ago has never regretted it for a moment, or more likely has never thought about it again for a moment - either way, I'm an all-in-one zealot!Print