Sunday, September 19, 2010

Real Life Cooking: White Sauce/Swedish Meatball Sauce

I read Pete Wells latest "Cooking With Dexter" column in the NY Times and burst out laughing.

It was all about prep work and how he was tortured by his inability to really do so in his home cooking until he was saved by Sara Moulton's new book that says that mis en place (setting everything up in those little bowls, all prepped) is a waste of time. That she, a Food Channel Chef, cookbook writer and executive chef for Gourmet magazine for many years suddenly realized while writing this new cookbook about everyday family dinners that she didn't cook that way for her own family, and that she shouldn't write a book for other people's families that way.


Welcome to my world, Sara. Rachel Ray's been there for years, much as she irritates me. And so have Beverly Mills and Alicia Stone of Kitchen Scoop

Their first cookbook came out in 1997, and one of its hallmarks is to not do prep work, but to chop that onion and toss it in the pot as you go, to boil the pasta while you're assembling the rest of the casserole. They have no problem with using prepped foods, like coleslaw, rather than chopping up all that cabbage.

You really CAN cook their dinners in 20 minutes. Even the Man can--pretty much :D

So here at The Library Lady Cooks  I am pleased to give you some posts in a category I am going to call "Real Life Cooking"
The sort for those of us who really have to get it on the table NOW.

Today here's  how to make a basic white sauce. While you can do this on the stove top--and I originally learned this from the "Better Homes and Garden" cookbook, it's faster in the microwave.

If you added cheese to this, you could make a good basic cheese sauce for that macaroni. Toss in some chopped mushrooms and you've got a healthier equivalent of canned mushroom soup--though I do admit to using that in a tetrazzini recipe I got from the Desperation ladies cookbook.. But when I make seafood lasagna, this sauce is mixed with the sliced mushrooms and the seafood for a creamy, savory filling.

Add a bit of beef stock and a sprinkle of nutmeg and you have a cream sauce like the sort they serve in Ikea to ladle over those Swedish meatballs they sell there frozen. You can buy the sauce mix there too. But after reading the package ingredients, you'll opt for this version. And my girls tell me it tastes a lot better:

(this makes 1 cup, but increase it as needed for any recipe) 

1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon margarine, butter or oil (NOT olive)
1 cup milk or half and half, or a combination of both

Combine flour and butter/marge/oil in a glass measuring cup.
Heat in your microwave for 30 seconds (for oil) up to 1 1/2 minutes (for butter or marge to melt), stopping every 30 seconds to stir and check it.
Slowly whisk in (a fork is fine) the milk and/or half &half to blend it.
Return to the microwave. Microwave for 30 second intervals until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, stirring at each interval. Be careful--if this gets too hot it will bubble over and make a mess. If you have a vented cover, I'd recommend using it.

White sauce is done at this point, ready for whatever ingredients you want to add to it.

Swedish Meatball Sauce:
Add a small amount of beef bouillon concentrate or stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon is available in many supermarkets. Meyer's beef stock is sold at places like BJs and Costco and is my favorite). I add about 1/8 -1/2 teaspoon of stock concentrate, enough to add flavor and a nice tan color to the sauce.
Sprinkle in a little ground nutmeg. Stir well and serve.

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