Michael Ruhlman’s Béchamel Sauce

Makes 1 ¼ cups

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • Four-fingered pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk (with additional milk for thinning the sauce if necessary)
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and salt, and cook until shallots are soft and translucent, a couple minutes.

Add the flour and stir to cook, another minute or so.

Whisk in milk, and continue stirring, dragging a spatula or flat-edged wooden spoon across the bottom to keep flour from sticking. As the milk heats, it will thicken. Add the nutmeg.

The béchamel is ready to use as soon as it’s thick (and it should thicken as soon as it returns to a gentle simmer), but it will improve if you reduce the heat to low, pull the pan to the side of the burner, and let it continue to cook, skimming the residue that collects at the cool side of the pan.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to five days. If, on reheating, the sauce is too thick, thin as desired with more milk.