I'm currently reading Michael Ruhlman's book The Making of a Chef and there's a lot of information in there about making sauces so that topic has been on my mind of late.

Sauces got their start in the Western world with garum (sometimes referred to as liquamen), a sauce created by Romans for seasoning meat. This garum was used like a condiment, sprinkled on meat at the table, and probably wouldn't appeal to most of us.

Garum was typically made from anchovies and the intestines of larger fish. This was mixed and then heavily salted, and allowed to sit for 24 hours. Then this fishy mix was placed in sealed containers in the sun and allowed to ferment for several months.

Today most sauces are variations on the sauces derived by 3 famous French chefs, La Varenne, Careme, and Escoffier. One of my favorite meals is based on Béchamel, a French sauce developed around 1650 (or maybe from Italy if you believe the Catherine de Medici line of thought--personally, I don't). Since cheese is added you could also consider it a mornay sauce though usually mornay is half Gruyère and half Parmesan cheese.

Béchamel is essentially a white roux to which milk is added and then reduced. This is the base for a macaroni and cheese recipe that I got from Lee around 12 years ago. Her mother had used the recipe since Lee was a kid and I suspect like many family recipes, it had originated on the side of a box of food. There was an explosion of recipes back in the 30s and 40s when food packaging became wide spread and the recipes were used to promote the food within the package.

Lee's Mac & Cheese
  • 2.5 cups milk
  • 1.5 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 0.5 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
Melt butter, blend in flour and seasonings. Add milk and cook down until thickened. Add 1 cup of cheese and stir until cheese melts. Cook macaroni al dente, combine with sauce in a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Back uncovered in 375 f oven for approximately 25 minutes.

The following link leads to an interesting recipe for Mac & Cheese that's similar to the one above but a more punch. The writer, Jane Galt, is very amusing and witty.


GA Girl said…
The Roman sauce sounds disgusting :-P

Yes, I have it on good authority that Lee's mom did get it from the back of the Mueller's elbow macaroni box many, many years ago.
Nina said…
I need an oven. Badly.
This sounds so good and easy. I wrote it down and will try it. My kids (and carb addict, me) love Mac n Cheese.
Sue said…
There are some good sauces out there and they can make a meal. The best suaces I found were in a British cookbook. Relly nice and tangy... Am cutting back on them, tho. Gotta take care of my heart, so I'm eating more "rabbit food". LOL!

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