Sunday, September 14, 2014

September Daring Cooks' Challenge - Dairy-Free Bechamel

This month, the Daring Cooks got a little saucy! Jenni from the Gingered Whisk taught us the basics of how to make the five mother-sauces and encouraged us to get creative with them, creating a wide variety of delicious, fresh sauces in our very own kitchens.

There are several "basics" which every cook hoping to increase their skills really should learn.

One of those skills is how to make a correct, good sauce.

Well, this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge helped us learn exactly that.

There are five basic "mother" sauces from which you can create hundreds upon hundreds of amazing, delicious and impressive variations to use in almost any dish you can think of. Knowing the differences between these sauces and the basic tricks for perfecting them can increase your kitchen prowess (and confidence!) greatly.

The question for me this month was which sauce to try! Granted, I want to try them all over time. The trick, though, was finding one that we could fit into our schedule this month, and that had the greatest likelihood of most of the family eating. And enjoying.

Most of the sauces involve dairy of some sort - butter, milk or cream, specifically, all of which little man can't have.  So I decided to be creative.

I chose to make a simple, basic bechamel - a white sauce made from a roux (generally butter and flour) and milk, then seasoned.  But I challenged myself to make a dairy free bechamel.  Using little-man friendly ingredients.

Coconut oil in place of butter, coconut milk in place of milk. And flour. Because it's nice to not have to substitute all three major ingredients...

The basic process is simple.  Melt the butter (coconut oil for me), then whisk in the flour.

The recipe called for two tablespoons of flour. I could tell right from the first tablespoon, though, that the oil wasn't behaving the same as butter does, and that this sauce would need a little bit more flour in order to thicken up properly. So I went with three tablespoons.

Once the flour is fully incorporated and cooked, slowly add the milk (coconut milk).

And then you whisk.

And whisk.

And whisk some more. Eventually, the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens up beautifully. The whole process is supposed to take about half an hour.  I don't know whether it was the coconut oil, the coconut milk or the combination, but mine took a lot longer to simmer and thicken, but finally (after about 45 minutes) it did, as you can tell by how it coated the back of my spoon.

(I ran my finger through it to see if it would hold the line - it did!).

When it came time to add the seasonings, I had to think about what I actually wanted to do with this dairy free bechamel.  And then I remembered a chicken tikka masala spice mix given to me by a friend recently.

Coconut sauce... tasty spice mix... Aha! I added half of a can of diced tomatoes, a nice scoop of the spice mix and some diced leftover roasted chicken to my bechamel, let it simmer, and voila!

Served with cauliflower and a pan-toasted tortilla (I didn't have time to make naan - next time!) and there we had it! A dairy free, simple chicken tikka masala curry!

So maybe it's funny that a French sauce led to an Indian dinner, but either way, I'm super glad to have made this. Jenni, I never would have tried it without this challenge, so I thank you. And I look forward to trying other delicious sauces, too!!

Dairy Free Bechamel
(my own variation, based on the Daring Cooks' Challenge)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 coconut milk (I used Silk coconut milk beverage)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the coconut oil.
When the coconut oil is fully melted and heated through, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until a paste forms. It might not form a real paste, but stir until it is well incorporated and feels a bit thick. Continue stirring and heating this mixture for about four or five minutes.
Whisk in the milk about ½ cup at a time, making sure that the addition is fully incorporated before adding the next addition of milk. Continue to whisk the mixture over the heat until it simmers and thickens slightly.  This took me about 30 minutes once all of the milk was added, so be patient. I promise - it will work!
At this point, add in your seasonings. Salt, pepper and nutmeg are the standard for a basic bechamel, but let your creativity guide you as to how you'd like to use your sauce!

1 comment:

  1. Nice B├ęchamel variation, basically a curry, which would have all that variety of spices, depending on the type.


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