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Thursday, 8 September 2011

More Than a White Sauce and a Garden Supper

So many recipes call for "a can of cream of mushroom soup" or a can of some cream soup. We dutifully add "cream soup" to the shopping list, doubting if it is really a healthy choice for an ingredient, not liking to pay at least a dollar, often more, for a can of soup, but wondering what could be substituted. Well, once you make white sauce, you will wonder no more, and the soup people will miss your money, which you will keep, since making a cup of white sauce is pretty cheap.

Equipment: Small saucepan, whisk, measuring cups and spoons.

Ingredients: to make a medium thick sauce, about the consistency of an undiluted can of cream soup - 2 tablespoons butter, or half butter and half olive oil, or all olive oil; 2 tablespoons flour (some people use instant flour here, but it isn't necessary); 1 cup of milk - skim, 1%, 2%, whole, or even part cream. Or substitute a half cup of chicken stock for half the milk. Have all the ingredients at hand on the stove top before you start.

Directions: Heat the butter/oil in the saucepan over medium heat until melted or just starting to bubble. Whisk in flour until smooth. Don't let it brown, so reduce the heat a bit. Now whisk in the milk, dribble by dribble - don't add it all at once - stirring slowly so that the fat/flour combination (this is called a roux) doesn't lump. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring or whisking constantly, until it is thickened nicely. Take off the heat.

That's it. If you feel you've been cheated all these years by the canned soup people - well, now you are wiser and won't be fooled again. It takes minutes to do this, and you get a nice consistency and a better taste.

To make it mushroomy, chop finely about four mushrooms, saute for a couple of minutes in olive oil or butter (not much, maybe a teaspoon), and add to the sauce. You can dilute the white sauce by whisking in slightly warmed milk for a cream soup. Add pureed and finely chopped steamed vegetables of choice, either before diluting, if using in a casserole, or while diluting for a cream soup.

Cheese sauce, which I served tonight, is made by stirring a half cup of grated cheese into the hot sauce. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard to improve the flavour.

Garden vegetables are plentiful right now. I boiled quartered new red potatoes for about fifteen minutes, added peeled and sliced carrots for another five minutes, and then whole green beans, ends snipped off, for five more minutes. Drain all the boiled vegetables, and meanwhile saute a sliced baby onion or two, and a small zucchini. Chop a large double handful of fresh parsley. Toss all the vegetables together in a bowl, and add the parsley. Just before serving hot, pour on the cheese sauce.

That is what we had for supper, and it was very filling and satisfying.


  1. The 'Chefs' always make cream sauces seem difficult don't they? No wonder home made mac & cheese tastes so much better :)


  2. This picture looks absolutely scrumptious! I'll have to try this some time your way. We like a simple casserole of plain boiled potatoes, steamed broccoli and mushrooms tossed with homemade cheese sauce. It's delicious!