Going gluten free was a shock to my culinary dreams of making and eating anything I wanted. I was one deeply depressed chick for a minute because I thought my food life was going to exist of blandly cooked meat, vegetables, and rice crackers. This was a devastating notion to the self proclaimed ‘Lover of the Food Network.’
How was I going to enjoy creamy casseroles? Chowder? Macaroni and cheese?
I was prepared for my food funeral, but then realized I had to beef up my gluten free game. I couldn’t let these delectables disappear from my life. Or worse, watch everyone else enjoying these timeless favorites.
I’m a child of the 80’s who grew up in the Midwest: Creamy Casseroles are kind of life around here. No shame in my casserole game.
In my prior gluten-FULL life I often turned to condensed canned soups to provide the creamy richness in most of the casseroles and creamy soups I made. And, in a pinch there was always boxed macaroni and cheese. Kraft knows what’s up! It’s still alive and well in my pantry for my kiddos.
As I pushed the empty soup cans off my counter and made room for some scratch ingredients I became more aware of what I was culinaryily (just made up that word) capable of.
You see, a simple white sauce – gluten free or not is a freeing tool to wield in your culinary tool belt. It allows you to control what goes into your food; or more importantly, what stays OUT! You can decide things like:
- Should I add more salt?
- Should I use heavy cream, whole milk, skim milk, or a plant based milk option?
- Margarine, Butter, Lard, Vegan Butter, Ghee become fat options (butter is always my choice)
- Gluten free or regular All-Purpose Flour?
You see how this works? Going gluten free made me realize I wasn’t losing food options I was gaining them. I hope you feel this way too if you are on a new gluten free journey.
The next step, and maybe, most important. DON’T BE AFRAID! I was once afraid to make white sauce because I was convinced I would burn the butter or my mixture would never reach proper consistency. I’m not going to lie, there was a learning curve, but that’s why I’m here for you now. I’m going to walk you through this process so you can keep your fear out of the kitchen.
I don’t know , but my kitchen is my safe space. I have enough fears swirling in my head everywhere else, so let them go here…The food does not judge. And neither will I.
Okay, enough talking….
Here is what you need:
- 1/4 Stick of Butter (see other options above if you want to use another fat option).
- 1/4 Cup of Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (use regular flour if you don’t need the gluten free option)
- 2 Cups Whole Milk (this is usually my go-to milk for white sauce but you can deviate. I listed some options above).
- The key to a good white sauce is to be attentive. It’s a little time investment but it’s well worth it.
- Melt the butter on medium heat in a saucepan. Allow the butter to melt completely and become slightly bubbly but not brown. Keep an eye on it. This is where your butter can burn if you aren’t near the pan.
- Once the butter looks like this add the flour, gradually. And whisk until it is fully incorporated. Once it’s incorporated cook for an additional minute, stirring consistently and keeping a watchful eye allow the butter and flour to cook so the ‘flour’ taste is cooked out of the mixture. It sounds strange, but the flour and butter will start to small nutty or toasted.
- At this point add the milk gradually. It will thicken fast and then get thin once all the milk is added. Continue to whisk the sauce over medium heat until it becomes creamy. This process could take up to 10-15 minutes. Enjoy the quiet time and simplicity of having only one thing to do. If the sauce doesn’t thicken after the 10-15 minute mark you may need to, slightly, increase your heat.
- This is what it should look like when it’s done.
- At this point turn off the heat and add your seasonings. For a very basic sauce salt & pepper will do.
This sauce is the backbone to any recipe you previously used canned cream soup or anything with a homemade cheese sauce.
- Macaroni and cheese. You can see what I added in this recipe Nancy Fuller’s Stovetop Mac & Cheese: Gluten Free!
- Ham and noodle casserole (onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika)
- Green Bean Casserole (onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, season salt)
- Homemade nacho cheese sauce: Add any cheese you would like (2-3 cups), and hot sauce if you are looking to spice things up.
- Clam chowder or any chowder that calls for a white sauce: season according to recipe or venture out on your own. Trust the chef in your new gluten free self! You know what you like! You have just become a more custom machine.