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The Royal Origins Of Béchamel Sauce
By Elaina Friedman
Vincent La Chapelle, the French master chef who served in the royal kitchens of Willem IV the Prince of Orange-Nassau, documented the first known recipe for béchamel in his 1733 tome "The Modern Cook." The book contains instructions for preparing dishes for princes, ambassadors, noblemen, and magistrates.
The original béchamel recipe instructs cooks to sauté minced parsley and leeks in “a good lump of butter,” along with minced shallots, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and a dash of flour. Fast forward to the early 1800s, and Marie-Antoine Careme (1784-1833) took bechamel to new heights when he included it as part of the four essential sauces of French cuisine.
The French-American chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1945) modernized the system by adding the fifth sauce, but Carême is the undoubted progenitor. Béchamel shares the stage with velouté, sauce espagnole, sauce tomat, and hollandaise. Per Eater, Carême is "a key reason French cooking has permeated nearly every country across the globe."