Stinque Recipe Challenge

Tonight, another recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Shrimp Mornay. First, the bechamel:


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Directions

    Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, blend in the flour with a wooden spoon, and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without turning more than a buttery yellow color. Remove from heat, and when bubbling stops, vigorously whisk in all the hot milk at once. Bring to the boil, whisking. Simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Season to taste.

    Let the bechamel cool for a few minutes. Whisk in 1/4 cup cheese for each cup of sauce, usually swiss or swiss and parmesan. Voilà – sauce mornay.

    My plan is to saute the shrimp in butter, then put the dish into ramekins and gratiné it in the bottom of the oven. I haven’t decided whether to sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs, like you would when preparing Coquille St. Jacques.


    Lenox’s Autumn china. My mother loves it.

    White sauce is, er, my cooking white whale. Either too lumpy or I don’t get the timing right on the milk.

    OMG! bechamel! my favorite!

    The key, I find, is to heat the milk while the butter and flour are doing their thing, then remove the butter/flour from heat and add milk VERY SLOWLY!

    I got a recipe I’ll dig out for a delightful bechamel that you bake in the oven.

    Bloggie, have you noticed yet, that classic french cooking is so much the base on which all the “classic american” dishes are based?

    Bechamel, thats a big one. Did you see my post where I said I am fascinated by what I call “culinary cognates,” I was using the term from linguistics to describe related words in different languages, to describe related recipes in different traditional cuisines.

    When I say “traditional american” cuisine, I am referring essentially to the set of recipes that were in the Betty Crocker cookbooks of the 50s, those are the recipes most of us grew up eating, that was the big cookbook for the parents of the boomers.

    So, to connect this back to bechamel. There are so many recipes of the Betty Crocker type, that call for using canned Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup as the base for a sauce. Campbells Cream of Mushroom is just bechamel, with mushrooms in it, and in all those horrid quick chicken with cream of mushroom poured over it, the string beans with cream of mushroom, thats just a bechamel shortcut. Campbells Cream of Mushroom is the most easily available pre-made bechamel. Thats why so many of those 50s and 60s recipes used it.

    The sad thing is, making real bechamel is hardly any more difficult than opening a can of cream of mushroom.

    And of course, once you master bechamel, all cream soups are just bechamel with whatever you desire pureed into it. Carrots, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, its all just one recipe, bechamel is the master master sauce, and with stock instead of milk, its veloute.

    @Promnight: The bechamel was perfect … but I can see how you might make a mistake if you step away from the stove. Still, the mornay was less delicious that I’d remembered (I cooked it once to impress a date in the mid-80s).

    @blogenfreude: What cheese did you use? When I used to make bechamel I remember cooking it for quite a long time. I didn’t make it much, however. Interesting what prom says about it.

    @Benedick: Used 2/3 swiss and 1/3 reggiano … I was surprised that the swiss didn’t come out stringy, but I have had good cooking karma lately …

    I made miso soup with tofu and veggies. Poor Mr Cyn had to supplement with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    @Mistress Cynica: I had a quarter store-roasted chicken last night. Broke down and made myself an actual salad, although the cukes here are funny things, kind of pale and dildo-shaped, with a tang reminiscent of a radish. Seedless grapes as a snack in my weekly effort to eat healthy.

    I hate batching it. I used to love trying to cook stuff (I’d compliment Prom’s Betty Crocker with the heart unfriendly James Beard cookbook, which is my go-to for anything meat related), but it’s a waste of time if I’m the only taster.


    I usually preheat the milk ( in a Pyrex measuring pitcher/cup) to just under a simmer in the microwave. Makes incorporating it quicker and smoother.

    Julia might be appalled at the use of the wave-box, but what the hell…it works.

    Dammit. Now I’m hungry…

    If you think the Bechamel is good, look up and try a Beurre Blanc sauce. (SWOON!)

    (… And spring for the shallots at the grocer’s. I tried scallions once and it wasn’t the same…looked cool, though.)

    I’m doing a Mother’s Day lunch for 12 tomorrow: broiled or grilled chicken, pasta salad, veggies, usual picnic sides, plus grilling dogs and burgs that people bring. Green salad for dinner tonight with cold brown rice and a small piece of a leftover stuffed pork chop mixed in.

    Good workout and yard work after starting the day out at the range before 8 am. Wore a fleece vest and jacket as I burned through a few boxes of ammo with the .22 semi auto pistol, .22 revolver, 9mm Glock and .357 snubnose revolver. The wind blew like hell today and will do so again tomorrow. Got a martini shaker in the freeze but I’m just heading off to bed.

    The Wine Spectator magazine had a big tribute to Julia Child recently which I was looking at earlier.

    Dodgers just got shut out by Flying Squirrels, 8-0.

    @Promnight: I have noticed … and you’re right – bechamel is universal, and easy.

    @redmanlaw: That might be the first comment on any blog that references firearms, grilling, alcohol, sports, and Julia Child. Well played.

    @redmanlaw: You gonna feed her or shoot her, dude?

    @blogenfreude: (Forgive the pomposity, I really can’t help it, it’s as natural to me as breathing.) The classic is gruyère, the best available. Which gives the sauce a slightly smoky taste and grainy texture. You might try that next time.

    @Benedick: Funny – that’s not suggested in the book (unless I missed it) and I wish I’d thought of it.

    @blogenfreude: Product of a well rounded life. /bows

    Lunch went off very well. We had four moms, 1 non-mom; two moms were no-shows (1 sick baby a 90 minute drive away, 1 flake). All the women got either a hanging floral basket from us (for my mom and Mrs RML’s mom) and every one else got potted geraniums from us that we picked up at a school flower sale at the gym yesterday. Two of the ladies brought cut flowers for the others.

    Son of RML made some chocolate dipped strawberries that were a hit. Showed a Mexican buddy how we burn burgers on the grill up here north of the border, an impressive display involving a low level grease fire, smoke like a burning roof, a metal spatula and drink in one hand (I had ice tea, while he was crankin’ the Pacificos).

    OK, back to work. Got a half day presentation for a client tomorrow I need to kick some ass on now. Mas cafe!

    @Benedick: The traditional instructions for all of the french roux-based master sauces, bechamel, veloute, espagnol, all call for a long slow cooking time, with lots of stirring, after adding the liquid to the roux. I have read that the long slow cooking and stirring makes the sauce more “velvety,” they say, from what I gather, its an aesthetic, more than gustatory, added value, I have not ever attempted that long process to see what the difference really is.

    As far as cognates, cajun cooking, its all based on making a roux, but where french roux-based sauces are all delicate and creamy, whereas the cajun roux-based sauces start with a roux that would be considered to be ridiculously burnt, and spiced beyond reasonableness. If you have learned the french roux sauces, then venture into cajun cuisine, you find that you are instructed from the outset to ruin your roux, burn it, to a crisp, then add overwhelming flavoring, huge amounts of hot spices, herbs both dried and fresh. Its like a frankenstein monster version of a classic french sauce, no subtelty, all overwhelming hammer-blows of flavor, but the relationship is still there, you start by cooking flour in butter, adding stock and flavorings.

    But I love both.

    @Promnight: Olney says you cook the roux for a min of 40 mins to get rid of the raw flour taste. Either that ot you cook it for no more than a minute or two. But nothing in between. You know that style much better than I do.

    I love in the Indian manner that one begins with roasting the spices dry in the pot you’re going to cook in. So the taste deepns and loses the harsh taste of raw spices.

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