Dear Home Ec 101,
On Sunday you mentioned you didn’t like adding Cream of Something Soup. A lot of my recipes call for Cream of Chicken or Mushroom. Am I just not supposed to make those recipes?
Connie V. Nience
Not at all, there is a very easy substitute and unless you find a fantastic deal, this is one of those times where the solution can be cheaper than the original. Remember we are comparing like to like (homemade stock is not directly comparable to chicken granules).
What you need is a basic white sauce, called bechamel (besh-a-mel). I’m going to run through the basic procedure, then I’ll show alternatives for different situations. This recipe yields the amount you need when a recipe calls for a can of cream of something soup.
- 4 TBSP unsalted butter
- 4 TBSP flour
- 2 cups milk
- pinch of salt (about 1/2 a tsp, doesn’t have to be exact)
*If you are going to be using this in a fancy recipe, use white pepper, otherwise fresh ground is just fine.
In a saucepan melt the butter over low heat.
*Frequently recipes say use a heavy saucepan. This term doesn’t imply anything about the sauce, it’s a warning against trying to use a pan with a thin bottom. Without getting into too much detail, pans with thicker bottoms are more likely to heat evenly, reducing the chance of scorching.
Stir frequently for five minutes. If your pan is thin, this means stir constantly. Right now you are creating a roux, this will be the base of your sauce, this step is important as it prevents a floury taste.
If you’re like me and have a toddler that’s usually attached to your hip, you’ll need to put the kid down for the next step, it only takes two minutes, but you need two hands, three if you’re trying to take a picture of the process. (I don’t have three hands, I just felt like I needed it).
Pour very slowly and whisk constantly. Don’t be scared when flour absorbs the milk and suddenly looks like dough. Just keep whisking and slowly pouring. You want to only add the milk as fast as the roux can absorb it. If you get ahead of the roux, stop pouring, but don’t stop stirring. The closer you get to the end of the liquid the faster the roux can absorb it. So, you start with just a trickle, then increase. Got it? Good.
Now, that sounds manageable, right?
Cream of Chicken substitute 1/2 the milk with chicken stock.
Cream of Celery substitute 1/2 the milk with chicken or vegetable stock and add 1/2 cup of chopped and sauteed celery. OR saute the celery in the butter, reduce the heat, then whisk in the flour and milk.
Cream of Mushroom substitute 1/2 the milk with chicken or vegetable stock and add 1/2 cup of chopped and sauteed mushrooms. OR saute the mushrooms in the butter reduce the heat, then whisk in the flour and milk.
Gluten Free – use 4 TBSP of rice flour or try Pamela’s Baking Mix
Additionally, if you are using this sauce in another recipe, add a pinch of the herbs or seasonings you will be using to complement the final recipe.
Bechamel can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Now, the big question is why would I go to that trouble?
Do you have any questions or suggestions?
Today’s recipe was a key ingredient in my Fearless Fridays recipe for this week. What are you going to make?