For my first cream based sauce post I chose a favorite ingredient in this family, Provolone cheese. Buy a good one, you use less so it's healthier and has so much more flavor.
You can build a cream sauce in many different ways but the main ingredient will always be a thickening agent. Most use a roux but you could make a slurry or use a starch, like corn, tapioca or rice. If you need to limit your fat intake, blend the flour directly into the dairy without the use of butter/oil.
It is easy to do and creates a lump-free sauce.
Measure out 1 tablespoon flour in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon dairy and whisk quickly. Once you have a cohesive texture, add another tablespoon and whisk, then another and repeat until you get the thickness you are looking for. I like to start with a sauce the consistency of buttermilk.
So why use the flour at all? You don't have to if you use heavy cream, but I prefer to use 2% - whole milk. With the milk you will need to thicken, even with the cheese. We are going for something that flows, not a queso.
Also, the flour helps to stop the dairy from separating or curdling.
I am sorry to go on about all this but this is a blog about sauces, and you need to know all the little tricks (and the science, of course) to create exceptional sauces.
Step 1 - Think about what you are serving this sauce on and what you want it to do.
I am breading thin chicken breasts in panko and serving them over polenta cakes (recipe here).
Bland foods, right. I can get away with a very assertive sauce.
Step 2 - Pick the main flavor ingredient (cheese, an herb, a spice, ethnicity, vegetable, wine or butter)
I had a hunk of good provolone in my fridge, so I picked that.
Step 3 - Next are the flavor components, the ingredients that will round out the main flavor.
I chose fresh sage, mustard and shallots.
Step 4 - Last is the finishing ingredients (olive oil, cilantro, chives, parsley, citrus juices.
I choose chives.
Provolone & Mushroom Sauce
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 small shallot, minced
* 2 oz good quality dry Provolone cheese
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 4 fresh sage leaves
* 1 1/4 cup milk
* 1/3 cup Marsala Mushrooms (recipe follows)
* salt & pepper
1. Melt the butter and saute the shallot. Season with salt & pepper.
2. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until it's all mixed in.
3. Add the mushrooms, sage and Dijon and stir.
4. Add in the cheeses and shut off the heat. The residual heat will melt the cheeses.
5. Taste for seasonings and adjust.
* 1 tablespoon both butter and olive oil.
* Add as many sliced mushrooms as you need and saute until browned.
* Deglaze with 1/4 cup Marsala (dry sherry will also do) wine.
Remove mushrooms and store in a container in the fridge until ready to use.
I always have plastic bags with 1/2 cup of these mushrooms in my freezer at all times.