How to Make a Classic Béchamel Sauce
I received this email from Danielle asking how to thicken her soups to duplicate a “can soup” texture. Here is what she said:
“I have recently been into making home made soups, the cooler weather I’m sure being a factor. I’ve been experimenting with trying to thicken my soup. I get it creamy by using a thickening agent like cornstarch, but I really enjoy a thick and heavy cream of mushroom or spinach soup. Is there some way I can achieve that “can” soup texture, without the can? Thanks for your help.” Danielle
I sent this question to Chef Ricco as part of my Ask A Chef feature and here’s what he told me:
“She wants to know if she can get the same texture as in a can of cream of mushroom soup. This is easy. A basic béchamel sauce will work.
But if she doesn’t want all that dairy, she can puree boiled potatoes and add it to the soup. Believe it or not, cooked cauliflower can be pureed and used also. “
Pronounced (bay-shah-mel), this classic is one of France’s Four “Mother Sauces” but no one knows for sure when it was first created or by whom. Most likely it was first prepared by someone who worked for King Louis XIV’s (1643-1715) of France.
Some say it either the Marquis Louis de Bechamel, the kings chief steward or Francois Pierre de la Varenne, the king’s chef who dedicated the sauce to Louis de Bechamel. Either way we know it starts with a roux made from butter and flour with the addition of boiled milk added to it.
What to Serve Bechamel Sauce With
By itself, it can be served with white meats like chicken or veal or vegetables and egg dishes. It is also the base for several other sauces including Mornay sauce which is Béchamel with cheese added to it.
Some other good ideas for using Bechamel sauce include any cream of soup recipe, eggs Florentine, turkey Tetrazzini or chicken Cordon Bleu. Casseroles, pot pies, open faced sandwiches or how about scalloped potatoes.
Chicken fried steak, chicken ala king, chicken & dumplings. Creamed pearl onions, creamed peas, creamed spinach. Creamed Anything!