For Xmas I was given a steamer.

This is good as I, as I expect a lot of people in the world have done, have resolved to lose some weight this year. Now I understand that steamers are good for cooking fish. One of my favourite accompaniments to make for fish is a white wine and parsley sauce, basically a thin Bechamel with white wine and parsley (occasionally with tarragon or dill depending on my fancy).

What I'm wondering is how to achieve the same effect with fewer calories. A white herby, winey sauce that's lower in fat... What do you think?

  • Have you done any research on lighter versions of sauce? What do those sources recommend? Jan 6, 2013 at 3:57

2 Answers 2


Thickening with starch or flour instead of roux can be quite acceptable if some other rich flavors are added. Here is where the calories can be traded in:

Good low-fat broth for part of the liquid. celery root or coriander root are particularly good ing. for veggie broth

Puree, in small amounts add body and flavor. soft cooked onion is particularly silky and surprisingly mild

Flavorsome oils, few drops instead of copious butter. Macadamia punches above its weight. Sesame toasted (tiny amount) or if feeling adventurous, pricklyash from Asian market.

lower-fat 'milks' can add luscious body instead of cream or 3% dairy milk. Unsweetened Almond or coconut doesn't overwhelm most sauces.

  • Thanks, these suggestions are certainly food for thought, no pun intended :)
    – Li1t
    Jan 6, 2013 at 6:48

You can't make a roux without fat (butter in this case) and you can't make béchamel without roux. Quite the quandary. You might try bringing some milk to near-boil, thickening it with flour. Once thickened, take it off the heat and thin with wine. Add herbs et al. I suspect, however, that you won't like it without the butter.

Pardon my pontificating, but weight loss has almost nothing to do with WHAT you eat, but how much: the calories. If I were you, I'd make it like you usually do (maybe with less butter?) and just eat less of it. Or make a reward meal and binge on it once a month instead of having it once a week.

Have a look at "en papillote" cooking. You'll love it with your new steamer.

  • 2
    See this answer (and comments). You'll need a lot of egg yolk (and time) to thicken a sauce. More importantly, egg yolk has about 54% fat content making it a poor substitute with regards to this question. Jan 6, 2013 at 9:34
  • 2
    @Chris - egg yolk also has other stuff (like proteins) that help thicken in a way that butter can't by itself. If combined with starch, it could add richness and a better texture without anywhere near the amount of fat calories as butter.
    – Athanasius
    Jan 6, 2013 at 16:56
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    @Athanasius I agree, and just for the record I wasn't advocating thickening with butter. To the extent my comment is correct, it is only so when egg is the only thickening agent. Assuming the information from the answer I linked to is correct, and 2 yolks thicken 1 cup of milk, lets say we want to thicken 1 liter of milk. A roux of 92g butter and 55g flour would thicken this (based on 27 béchamel recipes). That's 75g of fat (butter is ~82% fat). Calculating with eggs of 53g each, where each yolk is 35% of the egg's weight and is ~54% fat, we also end up with 75g of fat in the sauce. Jan 6, 2013 at 21:19
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    @Chris - yes, I agree. And I should clarify: I didn't mean to imply thickening with butter alone either. I just meant that eggs actually have significant thickening power (as well as fat), while butter alone has a lot less (while having a lot more fat). Therefore eggs + starch can thicken more than butter + starch. The thickening properties of roux are due to the starch, not the butter, so substituting egg for butter along with starch is a net gain in thickening power. That's what I meant to say. And, in that case, you would be reducing fat calories significantly.
    – Athanasius
    Jan 7, 2013 at 1:48
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    @Athanasius Absolutely, and my figures confirm what you say; you would break even using just yolks to thicken so any amount of starch used in combination will reduce fat. Jan 7, 2013 at 3:15

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