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classic white sauce

Béchamel sauce

Louis de Béchameil, financier and honorary chief steward to Louis XIV, didn’t invent this essential sauce (many say it was Protestant writer Philippe de Mornay), but he was rewarded with having it named after him by the cookery book writer Vincent La Chapelle in 1733, and it stuck, which suggests the name was doing the rounds in French kitchens before then. The first mention of the current recipe was written by La Varenne in 1651. It has since gone around the world.

Béchamel is a white roux, with milk slowly added and stirred to create a thick sauce. It’s the basis for dozens of recipes and other sauces; it was one of Escoffier’s five ‘mother sauces’ of French cuisine.

Philippe Duplessis-Mornay, vers 1580. Crayon de couleur, attribué à Dubreuil. Bibliothèque de la Société de l'histoire du protestantisme français.

Sauce Mornay: Philippe de Mornay is at least remembered with this cheesy béchamel sauce, made traditionally with grated Gruyère, but also Emmenthal and cheddar; it’s the base for cheese soufflés and macaroni and cheese.

Sauces and condiments

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by AnonymousUnknown author (Dubreuil ?), Jacek Halicki