Mother Sauces – Day 2

Mother SaucesSo here is day 2 of “The Attack of the Mother Sauces”, and other than our final day (Hollandaise), I’d say this would be my favourite sauce! Today’s sauce is Béchamel (bay-shah-mell) is made with milk and white roux. That’s right people, I’m talking about the basis for every yummy, gooey, cheesy sauce out there!

The history behind the sauce is actually pretty interesting (in my opinion): The Béchamel sauce was used for centuries in Tuscan and Emilian cuisine and was imported in France by the cuisiners of Marie de’ Medici second wife of King Henry IV of France. Then the sauce became a main ingredient of the French Court’s cuisine and was easily renamed from its original Italian name of “Balsamella” to “Béchamel“after the Marquis de Béchamel. Béchamel was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to Louis XIV. The sauce under its familiar name first appeared in Le Cuisinier François, published in 1651 by François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678), chef de cuisine to Nicolas Chalon du Blé, marquis d’Uxelles. The foundation of French cuisine, the Cuisinier François ran through some thirty editions in seventy-five years.

The sauce originally was a veal velouté with a large amount of cream added, however it evolved to what we know today of a mixture of a roux of flour and fat, cooked slightly, as to not darken, and then hot milk is whisked in along with an onion studded with a clove, salt, white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg to finish it off. What is amazing about this simple sauce, is what it turns into! Check out today’s recipes for the basic béchamel, along with these variations:

• Mornay = béchamel + Gruyère + Parmesan + butter
• Cheese = béchamel + cheddar + Worcestershire sauce + dry mustard
• Soubise = onions + butter + béchamel

Tomorrow we visit the dark side with a tour of Espagnole Sauce and it’s derivatives!