Milk gravy and béchamel are the same, save for name—one lives in the American southeast, the other across the ocean in France. For both: You make a blonde roux, whisk in whole milk, cook until thick, and season to taste. The ratio of roux to milk depends on what you’re going for. Lasagna? Mac and cheese? Biscuits and gravy? Here, we’ll borrow inspiration from the last—just swap out the biscuit and call in a crispy, baked potato. The white pepper is old-school French, used in classic recipes for its color—or lack thereof. While black pepper would discolor a pristine hollandaise or béchamel with countless specks and spots, white pepper blends right in. And I totally love its earthy flavor. —Emma Laperruque
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe is part of Change The Way You Cook, a new series to help anyone (yes, you!) become smarter, faster, and more freewheeling in the kitchen. —The Editors
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan. Prick each potato with a fork, then brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork-tender.
Set a small pot over medium heat. Add the butter. When it’s melted, add the white pepper and swirl (this blooms the spice!). Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook—and whisk!—for about 1 minute, until the roux takes on a pale blonde shade. Add a splash of milk and whisk until smooth. Add another splash and whisk again. Repeat this until all the milk has been added. Cook the gravy—whisking slowly but constantly—until it’s thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the salt. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
Make a lengthwise slit in each potato and squeeze open to show-off its fluffy belly. Practically drown in milk gravy, then top with plenty of chopped chives.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.