In the early 20th century, Auguste Escoffier in his classic Le Guide Culinaire and its abridged English translation A Guide to Modern Cookery, documented the contemporary five “mother sauces”: Béchamel sauce; Espagnole sauce; Hollandaise sauce; Tomato sauce; and Velouté sauce. Mother sauces are the starting point for making various derivative sauces and they are called mother sauces because each one is like the head of its own unique family of sauces.
In this series of posts on sauces, we’ll go through each of the mother sauces, how they’re made in the classic style, and how to make paleo and gluten free versions of them, if they are not already so. We’ve already covered Hollandaise sauce, which can be found here.
Béchamel is traditionally made by melting a quantity of butter, and adding an equal part of flour in order to make a roux, which is cooked under gentle heat while stirring with a whisk. As it is a white sauce, care needs to be taken not to brown the roux. Then heated milk is gradually whisked in, and the sauce is cooked until thickened and smooth. The proportion of roux and milk determines the thickness of the sauce, typically one to three tablespoons each of flour and butter per cup of milk. One tablespoon each of butter and flour per cup of milk would result in a thin, easily pourable sauce. Two tablespoons of each would result in a medium thick sauce. Three tablespoons of each would be used for an extra thick sauce such as used to fill croquettes or as a soufflé base. Salt and white pepper are added and it is customary to add a pinch of nutmeg.
Béchamel sauce is the base for a number of other classic sauces with additional ingredients added including:
- Mornay sauce – cheese
- Nantua sauce – crayfish
- Cream sauce – cream
- Mustard sauce – mustard
- Soubise sauce – finely diced onion
- Cheddar cheese sauce – cheddar and anchovy paste
Paleo and Gluten Free Béchamel: To make a paleo and gluten free version of béchamel, replace the butter with ghee (clarified butter), replace the flour with tapioca flour, and replace the milk with almond milk or coconut milk.
- 1 TBSP ghee
- 1 TBSP tapioca flour
- 1 Cup of almond milk
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste