Give Your Béchamel A Flavor Boost With This Extra Step

Béchamel is a versatile white sauce that acts as the glue in a number of decadent dishes, including a lasagna recipe, gratin dauphinoise, and even a croque monsieur, which is an elevated ham and cheese sandwich. Made with a simple one-to-one ratio of butter and flour, the béchamel thickens to a sauce once the warmed milk is slowly incorporated. What you're left with is possibly the smoothest and thickest Alfredo-like sauce.

The marriage of flour and butter makes the simplest roux, which is what holds this sauce together. A béchamel can be the base for any sauce, really. Add cheese and turn it into a rich mac and cheese sauce (or as the French call it: Mornay sauce, per Masterclass). One béchamel recipe includes bay leaf and onion, which makes the béchamel so flavorful it could be eaten on its own. One spice that you see many seasoned chefs add to their béchamel is freshly grated nutmeg. Although nutmeg is most commonly seen in a blend of traditional winter spices, such as cinnamon and cloves, it adds a hint of sweetness and an earthy, nutty aroma to the cream sauce that makes it an essential ingredient (via Lacademie).

Add nutmeg to browned butter

You can elevate your béchamel by using brown butter, which adds a caramelized richness to the sauce. Brown butter is what happens to butter when you melt it in a pan and let the milk solids turn golden, giving it a roasted flavor. This method of cooking gives depth to butter that is so popular the French refer to it as beurre noisette, which translates to "hazelnut butter," due to its characteristically nutty aroma. If you brown your butter before adding flour, you'll end up with a deep caramelized flavor without running the risk of burning your sauce

Sometimes, chefs add nutmeg last after the sauce is almost finished, but the trick is to add it in the very first step. While you brown your butter in a pan, add some freshly grated nutmeg. Toasting your spices doubles the roasted flavor of the béchamel, and adds complexity to an otherwise simple sauce. This will help the nutmeg flavor infuse deeper into your béchamel. So, take that extra step. You can use this rich sauce to hold together layers of scalloped potatoes, or pour it over a deluxe sandwich.