A basic white sauce is one of the most useful items in a home cook’s repertoire. It’s delicious plain, called béchamel, but it’s also versatile and can be enhanced with different flavors. A béchamel with cheese is called a mornay sauce; with fresh herbs, it’s called a chivry sauce. I’ve combined the two here into an herbal cheese sauce that goes well with a variety of dishes, including chicken, pasta, vegetables, and eggs.
Herbal Cheese Sauce
- 1¼ c. dry white wine, divided
- ½ c. fresh green herbs, chopped, divided Chervil, tarragon, parsley, and thyme are good traditional choices.
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 2½ c. heavy cream
- 1 stick butter, divided
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ white onion, trimmed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 whole cloves
- ⅔ c. shredded Parmesan
- ½ tsp salt
- dash white pepper
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
Warm cream over med.-low heat in sm. heavy-bottomed saucepan w/ pouring lip; do not boil. Meanwhile, melt 7 tbsp butter over low heat in med. heavy-bottomed saucepan; do not brown. Leave remaining tbsp out to soften.
Meanwhile, place 1 c. wine, approx. half the fresh herbs, and green onion in sm. saucepan w/ pouring lip. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to med. Slowly boil until wine reduces to approx. 3 tbsp., approx. 10 min. This is your herb essence.
Meanwhile, make onion piqué: Use cloves to tack bay leaf to cut side of onion half.
Once butter is melted, stir in flour until fully blended. Do not brown. This is your roux.
Gradually stir warm cream into roux. Add onion piqué, cut side down. Increase heat to med. Bring to low boil, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat to med.-low. Remove onion piqué. Stir in remaining wine. Gradually whisk in cheese until melted. Whisk in nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until sauce thickens, approx. 4-5 min.
Strain herb essence into sauce. Stir. Cook 2-3 min. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining butter and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.