So, class, welcome to your first day of Cooking 101. Today’s lesson is sauces. First sauce, velouté. What is a velouté you ask? Well, don’t ask a Frenchman because they’re likely to laugh in your face, spit on you for your ignorance and then leave you without any pride or dignity (or answers either). Velouté is one of the four original French “Mutha Sauces”, along with Béchamel, Hollandaise and Espagnole and is created by combining a roux (flour and butter) along with stock (usually chicken or veal).
Now, class, a second super-sauce that you all must know how to make is another one of the mother sauces, béchamel. Béchamel is the base of many other classic sauces including Sauce Mornay and the delectable cheddar cheese (AKA, Mac-n-Cheese) sauce. It has become like my buddy, friend and confidant over the past few years because it works with so much. It took some practice, but I now am able to make a great béchamel by eyeballing instead of having to annoyingly look at a Julia Child recipe. I really recommend you practice your béchamel-making too, class, as soon as you can. Class dismissed. I know I’m not breaking ground here with this recipe, but I decided to take the basics of the velouté and the béchamel and blend them to make what I am coining (please correct me if there is a traditional word) a velamel. This definitely isn’t as earth-shattering as the discovery Heather made with her tomato béchamel, but I tried. I knew I wanted a creamy pasta sauce but I didn’t have cream. Instead, I made a béchamel and then added some porcini broth/stock to create the pasta sauce. It was a fabulous sauce and perfectly thick without having that heavy-cream feel. Plus I was able to convince myself that it was less fattening.
Now I’m sure some of your are thinking, porcini stock, wtf. I understand your pain. I wish there would come a time when we were able to buy fresh porcini’s as easily as we can buy brown mushrooms. But, until that day comes, I’m stuck using dried porcini’s. Besides utilizing the water used to rehydrate the porcini’s as part of the base for my ‘velamel’, I also pulled a Sandra Lee and used some of these great Porcini Stock Cubes by STAR.
These cubes pack a punch and, I’m sure are filled with crap like MSG, but I don’t care. They worked really well with this dish. I don’t know how easy these stock cubes are to buy in the states, but I have found them for sale in an Italian specialty shop in Philadelphia, Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can also order the plain mushroom version here, but the porcini cubes seem to be difficult to purchase on the web. Please don’t hate on me for using these stock cubes. You could probably use vegetable stock or some veal stock to make this sauce. With some meaty mushrooms, you’ll enjoy this big bowl-o-pasta as much as I did. So try yourself some “velamel” next time you want a creamy pasta sauce.You’ll be glad you did.
PASTA WITH MUSHROOM BECHAMEL SAUCE – serves 3 to 4
What to do:
- Combine milk and mushroom stock. In a separate pan (or even in a glass bowl), heat up your milk/stock mixture (feel free to heat up in the microwave for a few minutes until very hot).
- Meanwhile, in a new pan, melt your butter on medium-low until melted. Once melted, add the flour and stir until it’s all combined and smooth. Allow to cook together and continue to stir for about 5 minutes.
- Slowly add in the milk/stock mixture, starting with one cup. Using a whisk, stir constantly until the milk/stock mixture is absorbed into the flour/butter mixture. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in some more of the milk/stock mixture, stirring all the way. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower to medium and allow it to bubble away at a happy simmer. Cook on medium for about 10-15 minutes so it thickens up a bit.
- Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and taste to see if it needs any extra seasonings. Throw in the parmigiano reggiano and stir.
- Cook your pasta.
- Add about 1 cup of your mushroom bechamel into a big bowl. When your pasta is finished, add to the bowl along with the rehydrated porcini’s and toss. Plate and top with some extra parmigiano reggiano and some dried