~ A Classic Mornay (Gruyère and Parmesan) Sauce ~
The modern-day Mornay sauce we enjoy is a béchamel sauce (a classic, French roux-based cream sauce, not to mention the last of the original, five French mother sauces to be invented). Shredded Gruyère and grated Parmesan cheeses get melted into the béchamel at the end. I like to refer to this easy-to-prepare "secondary sauce" ("a spin-off" of one of the originals) as: "the mother of all cheese sauces." That said, named after the Duke of Mornay (who lived during the late 16th and early 17th Centuries), the sauce was originally prepared using a velouté sauce (a slightly-thinner, stock-based sauce thickened by a white roux), because béchamel hadn't been invented yet. The new-to-them béchamel, rich with cream or milk (instead of stock), gave it a luxurious, silky texture -- it was quickly recognized by professional chefs as an improvement.
A common variation on Mornay is cheddar sauce, substituting white or yellow* cheddar for Gruyère -- this kid-friendly version was one of my secret weapons, as I used it to top veggies and as a sauce for my stovetop mac and cheese. Eggs Mornay, a variation on the classic eggs Benedict is superb, but, WARNING, Mornay is frowned upon as a sauce for fish or seafood.
Variations on Mornay sauce -- they vary slightly, not a lot.
When making Mornay sauce, chefs use hard or semi-hard cheeses exclusively -- cheeses that grate or shred relatively easily. Soft, sticky cheeses like, brie, blue, goat and fresh mozzarella, or wet cheeses like cottage and ricotta, simply do not melt to the proper creamy consistency. Now is not the time to count calories or cut back on fat either. When choosing cheese, avoid the words "half the calories" and "lower in fat", and, use only dairy cream, half-and-half or whole milk.
*A classic French Mornay sauce is made w/white-colored cheeses & ingredients:
4 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 1/2 cups whole milk, plus an additional 1/4-1/2 cup milk, if necessary, to adjust consistency at the end of the cooking process
1 small, yellow or sweet onion (about 5-6 ounces)
4 whole cloves
2 small, whole, bay leaves
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 cups)
4 ounces finely-grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
~Step 1. Peel a small onion and "stud" it with the cloves ("push them in like thumb tacks"). In a small bowl, stir together the flour, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Using a hand-held box grater, shred the Gruyère, and, using a microplane grater, finely-grate the Parmesan.
~Step 2. In a 3-quart saucier, melt butter over low heat. Add the seasoned flour. Whisk constantly until flour is incorporated into butter and a thick, pasty mixture has formed, about 30 seconds. Continue to whisk for another 1-1 1/2 minutes, lowering the heat if necessary, to keep the roux from browning -- this additional cooking time will remove the raw flour taste.
~Step 3. Adjust heat to medium-low and slowly drizzle in the milk, whisking constantly, to work out any lumps. Add the onion, clove-studded-side-down, then the bay leaves. Allow mixture to come to a simmer, whisking constantly, 3-4 minutes. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, an additional 3-4 minutes, until a nicely-thickened and smooth béchamel sauce has formed.
~Step 4. Adjust heat to low. Add the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses to the saucier and whisk constantly until cheese is completely melted and sauce is smooth, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in additional milk, in small increments, only if necessary, until desired consistency is reached. Remove onion and bay leaves. Use sauce as directed in recipe. You will have 1-quart.
Rich & ready to be used in any recipe requiring cheese sauce:
A classic Mornay (Gruyère and Parmesan Sauce: Recipe yields 1 quart/4 cups Mornay sauce. Gently reheat room temperature leftover in the microwave, stirring occasionally and adjusting consistency by adding additional milk.
Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; hand-held box grater; microplane grater or food processor; 3-quart saucier or saucepan; whisk; large spoon
Cook's Note: Béchamel looks a lot like Mornay (it's pictured here in the same ramekin, with the same background). It's not perhaps my favorite of the five mother sauces, it is my favorite. ~ Plain, Simple, Unpretentious Basic White Sauce ~. Read the post.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)