Béchamel is a home-economics-class sauce. You learn to make it, but you never conceive of using it again. But a good béchamel has its place in the world, though mostly as a supporting player rather than a star. You can’t make a cheese soufflé without béchamel, some delicious lasagnas are made moist with béchamel (called besciamella in Italian), and real mac and cheese is all about the sauce, which starts with béchamel. Many béchamels are made with only milk, but I’m adding 30 percent cream because I like the depth of flavor it imparts. Don’t be tempted to add a lot of nutmeg. It’s fun to grate, but it can call unwanted attention to itself.
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