1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 small onion studded with 2 Or 3 cloves, optional
1 small bay leaf
dash dried leaf thyme, crumbled
salt and white pepper to taste
nutmeg, to taste
In a medium heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When butter starts to foam, add the flour all at once, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly to incorporate and cook flour. Do not brown. Remove pan from heat and let stand, up to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, scald milk (heating it until just below boiling point).
Return saucepan with flour/butter roux to medium-low heat. Add all of the scalded milk at once (to avoid the formation of lumps). Simmer, stirring gently with a wire whisk or wooden spoon. Add studded onion, bay leaf and thyme sprig. Cook, stirring, over low heat, 15 to 20 minutes, until smooth and thickened. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer - removing onion, bay leaf and thyme. Add salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. Makes about 2 cups.
Cheese (Mornay) Sauce. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice) during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Vegetarian: Make these substitutions: butter substitute/margarine and rice milk