Béchamel Sauce, also known as white sauce, is a basic sauce that is used as the base for other sauces, such as Mornay sauce, which is Béchamel and cheese. This basic sauce, one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, is usually made today by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white flour-butter roux, though it can also be made by whisking a kneaded flour-butter beurre manié into scalded milk. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour.
When it was invented, sauce Béchamel was a slow simmering of milk, veal stock and seasonings, strained, with an enrichment of cream. The sauce under its familiar name first appeared in Le Cuisinier François, (published in 1651), by Louis XIV's chef Francois Pierre (de) La Varenne (1615 - 1678). The foundation of French cuisine, the Cuisinier François ran through some thirty editions in seventy-five years. The sauce was named to flatter a courtier, Louis de Béchameil, marquis de Nointel (1603–1703), a financeer, sometime intendant of Brittany, who is sometimes mistakenly credited with having invented it.
The sauce called velouté, in which wine and white stock are added to a white roux, is a full hundred years older. It appears in the cookbook of Sabina Welserin in 1553.
The following recipe reflecting the original, not the modern, Béchamel, is taken from The Cook's Decameron: A Study In Taste, Containing Over Two Hundred Recipes For Italian Dishes. This is part of a project that puts out-of-copyright texts into the public domain. This recipe reflects the cooking at the turn of the last century. Update as necessary.
- bay leaf,
- potato flour,
- fowl stock.
- "Prepare a mirepoix by mixing two ounces of butter, trimmings of lean veal and ham, a carrot, a shallot, a little celery, all cut into dice, a bay leaf, two cloves, four peppercorns, and a little thyme. Put this on a moderate fire so as not to let it colour, and when all the moisture is absorbed add a tablespoonful of potato flour. Mix well, and gradually add equal quantities of cream and fowl stock, and stir till it boils. Then let it simmer gently. Stir occasionally, and if it gets too thick, add more cream and white stock. After two hours pass it twice slowly through a tamis so as to get the sauce very smooth."
- History and legends of Bechamel sauce (http://www.whatscookingamerica.net/History/BechamelSauce.htm)
- "Bechamel - "A Most Insignificant Sauce"" (http://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/bechamel.html)