Best and Better Bread Sauce
“… and let us not fail them in the matter of bread sauce, or which there never is and can hardly be enough. This is so much oftener badly mad and nasty, instead of well made and nice, that a few precepts for the inexperienced hand, to which it is oftenest entrusted, may not be amiss here.”Agnes Jekyll, Kitchen Essays
At the end of a long, hard week a friend invited us for dinner. I had a stiff whisky and then he provided a traditional roast chicken and a nutmeg bread sauce. I mellowed… I became once again human… and it wasn’t just the warming whisky. Why is bread sauce so often reserved just for the Christmas turkey? It goes perfectly with chicken, and, unless you have a truly gargantuan, youthful appetite, you can forego the roast potatoes and just serve with broccoli, purple spouting – or broccolini.
Bread sauce keeps in the fridge for about a week, or you can freeze it. Ultimate cheat? You can buy it ready-made – Marks and Spencer (rich taste) or Joubère (good texture – available at Ocado, Waitrose etc) make good ones. When you’re making it the key to both the rich taste and the smooth texture is the cream….
NB allow infusing time – could be an hour, or could be overnight or while you’re out at work.
How to cook the best bread sauce
enough for four or five people
- 1 banana shallot (or a small onion)
- 3 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 240 ml/2 cups milk
- 2 or 3 walnuts of butter
- 10 grinds of nutmeg (do bits of your grinder keep on falling off? Go here for advice on a good grinder)
- 3 or 4 Indonesian long peppercorns
- 180ml/⅔ cup cream
- 200g/8 oz slightly stale white bread (without the crusts). NB the staleness is important
- 1 tsp smoked salt
- Put a couple of walnuts of butter, and the milk into a medium saucepan and begin to warm
- Peel and finely chop the shallot and add that together with the cloves, pepper, and torn bay leaves
- Simmer about twenty minutes
- Leave to infuse for at least an hour
- Take out the bay leaves, the pepper corns and the cloves
- Tear the bread up as small as you can with your hands
- Add bread, nutmeg and salt to the milk and stir (using a wooden or silicone spoon)
- Simmer for three or four minutes, add the cream and one more walnut of butter (to prevent a skin) – don’t simmer any more, but just make sure it’s heated through.
Of course, not everyone is a fan of bread sauce…. it’s an acquired taste:
“…and a bowl of mush called bread sauce. (Bread sauce is very white bread soaked in milk, which looks and tastes like something Mr Bumble and his ilk would have given to workhouse boys or toothless Victorian pensioners. I love everything else but it’s just…not my favourite.)Stanley Tucci, Taste