Dear Home-Ec 101,
I was wondering if I would be able to use Bechamel sauce in the Crock Pot, for an extended period of time, without it seperating or breaking down? I am wanting to do a pork loin with a creamy mustard sauce, and instead of using condensed soup and what not, I was going to do a bechamel sauce, add some sour cream and some dijon, as well as maybe some horseradish, and there you have it! I was just curious, as I couldn’t find anything on the world wide interweb, and have no one around to ask.
Breaking in Bristol
The short answer is: absolutely.
The longer answer? Well, here you go:
Bechamel is one of the five mother sauces and is a cornerstone of classical chef training. The mother sauces are:
Veloute – a light stock (made with bones that haven’t been roasted) thickened with roux
Bechamel – milk thickened with roux
Tomato – umm, do I have to explain this one?
Espagnole – a brown sauce, made with roux, veal stock, roasted veal bones and mire poix
Hollandaise -gently heated egg yolk and clarified butter and this is also my personal favorite
Foodies will argue all day long about whether or not aioli/mayo is now one of the six mother sauces, even if it’s not exactly a sauce. Here at Home-Ec 101 we’re going to keep it as simple as possible. I’m not including it for now, but I will certainly, at some point in the future teach how to make each of these sauces, including the hotly debated aioli/mayo.
On to your actual question:
A roux is a mixture of fat and flour cooked over heat long enough to get over that pasty raw flour taste. There are several kinds of roux, but bechamel calls for blonde, which simply means it has been cooked just long enough to get rid of the raw taste, but not so long as to develop the nutty, toasted flavors that show up in peanut butter, chocolate, and brick varieties.
In bechamel, the roux is thinned with milk and flavored with a little nutmeg (that I never add, I’m not a nutmeg fan, remember that if I invite you over for dinner). Roux is a miracle, but it is not magic. If the bechamel is heated to boiling, the sauce will break and separate into its components. Remember oil and water do not mix, after all. The wheat flour keeps the whole sauce in a suspension (fancy chemistry term). If it’s heated too much this suspension cannot be sustained and that’s when you end up with funny textures and oil sitting on top of a dish.
That said, you can certainly bake and slow cook with bechamel, where you would have used a can of cream of something previously, but you cannot let it get too hot. This is probably going to involve a little trial and error. Additionally, remember when using a slow cooker, you use about 50% less liquid than in a recipe that suggests cooking in an open pan in the oven or on the stove.
By the way, your idea for a pork loin with bechamel based sauce sounds wonderful, but for the most dependable results, I’d probably season and cook the pork loin in the slow cooker and then, instead of going the traditional bechamel route, why not cut loose and use the same technique with the drippings from the pork loin?
You’ll need a fat separator or a careful hand to spoon the fat off of the liquid. Use the normal ratio of fat to flour to liquid. ( Typically 2 TBSP fat, 2 TBSP flour, 1 cup liquid) and simply add butter and milk to fill in any gaps. So if you have 1 TBSP of fat from the drippings, use 1 TBSP of butter, only have 3/4 cup of liquid from the loin? No problem, just add enough milk to make it 1 cup. Now, make your roux, add the liquid, then go ahead and add your sour cream and mustard if you’d like. Pour this over your cooked loin and enjoy! By using this method you’re taking advantage of the complementary flavors already in the dish instead of the more bland, but still delicious milk and butter.
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