Béchamel sauce

This basic sauce was named after the Marquis Louis de Béchameil (1630-1703) who was the maitre d'hotel of the French King Louis XIV. It is believed that this recipe was based on an old traditional sauce that would have been improved by the chef of Louis XIV and who had dedicated it to Louis Béchameil. At first, the béchamel sauce was a reduced sauce velouté enriched by a large amount of creme fraiche. Nowadays, it consists on a white sauce made with milk instead of a bouillon. The béchamel sauce is the base of quite few classic sauces such as the aurore sauce (béchamel with tomato), the Mornay sauce (béchamel with egg yolks, gruyere and parmesan cheese), the Nantua sauce (béchamel with crayfish and crayfish butter), etc.
This béchamel sauce recipe is also refered as béchamel maigre (lean bechamel):
  • 50g onion.
  • 50g carrot.
  • 50g cured ham (optional).
  • 30g+30g butter.
  • 30g plain flour.
  • 3/4 litre milk.
  • pinch of nutmeg.
  • salt and pepper.

In a heavy, thick bottom saucepan, sweat off the vegetables (and cured ham) cut into a mirepoix with 30g of butter. When this is done, add the rest of the butter and the flour, allow to cook whihout any coloring, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Dilute this roux with the milk that has been boiled (not boiled over!) and gently bring to the boil while stiring constantly. Add the bouquet garni and the seasoning and allow to cook very gently for 45 minutes. Stir from time to time.

When cooked, strain the sauce through a chinois and rectify the seasoning.

If the sauce is not to be used straight away, dot a few bits of butter around the surface to avoid the building of a skin.

"The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they feed themselves."
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. The Physiology of Taste (1825)

Suitable for vegetarians, pregnant women. Contains gluten and lactose. Nut free.