Roux vs. Bechamel vs. Mornay
If there’s one thing that’s true about SoupAddict—aside from the fact that she loves soup. And bacon—it’s that she doesn’t stand on ceremony. No, no, there’s no ceremony-standin’ in SoupAddict’s life. She dabbles recklessly with other people’s proven recipes. She speaks in run-on sentences, usually to herself. She starts carrot seeds indoors for transplanting outdoors when all conventional wisdom says not to. She ends sentences with prepositions.
No, there’s nothing formal about SoupAddict whatsoever. Especially in the kitchen. Years ago, if you had asked SoupAddict to explain the difference between a Béchamel and a Mornay, she would’ve answered, “Well, Beckhamel is a British soccer player, and mornay is an eel.” [And then she'd mentally add, 'Idiot,' to the end of her answer and return to playing Burgertime on Intellivision.]
Those were innocent days. But since then, SoupAddict has acquired herself some of that thar knowledge, gleaned from book learnin’ and the Interwebs. And now, God help us all, she not only knows what Béchamel and Mornay actually are, but she can prepare and pronounce them properly. Observe:
[SoupAddict will pause while you mentally express how impressed you are by SoupAddict's gleaned knowledge.]
“Roux,” by the way, is pronounced “roo,” as in rue, not “rux,” as in Teddy Ruxpin Bear.
But however you pronounce them—and, really, SoupAddict doesn’t care, because she’s not a ceremony-standin’ type of girl—they are the building blocks of French cuisine and many a delicious dish, including thick soups and macaroni and cheese. And they’re scads easier to make than pronounce.
Traditional Mornays use Gruyère and Parmesan, but, really, the sky’s the limit. That’s SoupAddict’s philosophy. Gruyère and havarti and/or sharp white cheddar is a particularly favorite combination.
The thickness of the sauce is a direct result of the proportion of flour to liquids. A medium-thick sauce consists of 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour to 1 cup of dairy. Use more flour/fat to create a thicker sauce.
Other delicious additives:
To the Roux:
- minced onions*
- rendered bacon fat (replacing part or all of the butter)
- clarified butter (instead of regular butter)
To the Béchamel:
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- white pepper
- dried ground mustard
- prepared dijon mustard
- dry sherry
- freshly grated nutmeg
- whole cloves*
- bay leaf*
To the Mornay:
- Worchestershire sauce
- egg yolk
*Note: when adding any ingredient that will not dissolve into or mix completely with the sauce, make sure you strain the sauce through a sieve at the end of the Béchamel stage to remove any solids.