Monday, September 23, 2013

"The boss" sauce.

Asparagus with "the boss" sauce (chèvre-lemon béchamel). © Ryan Schierling
No disrespect to the mother sauces intended. Really. I just didn't know what to call this one. It started out – honest and innocent – as a simple béchamel but from there it became a bit ambiguous as to where it belonged on the family tree of classic sauces. I searched the interwebs – for a couple of minutes at least – and couldn't find this one anywhere.

The mother sauces, being mothers, birth offspring by the addition of particular ingredients to them, and these new sauces assume different names. Béchamel, one of the five classic French Mother Sauces, is essentially a white sauce made with a light roux of equal parts flour and butter where the liquid component is milk. When cheese is added, it becomes a mornay sauce. That is if you are prone to oversimplification. While you may find any of a number of interpretations of mornay at your local fancy-schmancy eating establishment, mornay is classically made with parmesan and gruyere – these are traditional, specific, and hard/grate-able cheeses.

My cheese of choice, chèvredid not exactly fit this profile. It is a fresh soft cheese. And, for an added complication, this sauce is finished with freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Oh, conundrums!

I decided to ask a friend. This friend is serious about food. And her husband, Jay, is so serious about food that, even with over a decade of top-notch practical experience, he's currently getting some formal education in order to make his resume indestructible. I abandoned my Bing queries and sent this message to Dawn:

"I have a very technical food question for your man of culinary letters. Could a Béchamel sauce with chèvre be considered a Mornay? It is not a hard/grated cheese such as the traditional gruyere or parm – rather far from it as "cheese" goes. To further complicate matters, what if this sauce also included lemon juice – but no additional cream. Would it then become a Chèvre Cream Sauce? I have some thoughts on this, but I'd like to get an expert take on the matter!"

This is the answer I received:

"Jay and I both agree it should be called 'the boss' sauce. It's the technical term used in true culinary circles."

Oh, dear.... Well, thanks, Dawn and Jay. I'll have you know the name stuck. The up-side is that it doesn't take as long to say as "lemon-chèvre béchamel" – and that comes in awfully handy when you're busy ladling yet another spoonful from the saucepan to your mouth. 

It's exceptional with asparagus, too. 

"The Boss" Sauce (chèvre-lemon béchamel)

4 tablespoons butter
4 level tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, warmed
4 ounces chèvre (fresh goat cheese)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup, or to taste), strained

3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper or white pepper, to taste

In a saucepan melt the butter. Whisk the flour into the butter until it is all incorporated and bubbling in the pan. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, to create a smooth sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add salt to taste. Add the chèvre and parmesan and whisk to incorporate. Add the fresh lemon juice and whisk to incorporate. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

To dress a pound of pasta, use the full recipe. For 1 pound of dry pasta (we used trottole), cook the pasta as directed until, al dente. 

We recommend mixing the pasta with asparagus that has been cut into 2-inch pieces and steamed. Garnish with a dusting of freshly grated parmesan, and serve.

"The boss" sauce is also tasty with broccoli rabe. To prepare, just rough chop the broccoli rabe tops and leaves (the tender parts) and throw them in with the pasta water for the last 4-5 minutes of cooking time. Drain and combine all together with the sauce. 

When using to simply dress steamed asparagus, or white asparagus, you need only make a half-batch of this recipe. It's delightful garnished with a little bit of fresh lemon peel. 

Trottole pasta with broccoli rabe and "the boss" sauce. (Or is it lemon-chèvre mornay?) © Ryan Schierling


  1. I would like to take a bath in boss sauce. Is that inappropriate?

    1. We certainly wouldn't judge you, Corrin.


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