All sauces in cooking are derived from five basic sauces, called the mother sauces. Established by French chef Antonine Carême in the early 19th century, the mother sauces were traditionally prepared in huge quantities, and then separated into smaller portions with additional ingredients added to create a multitude of variations. Still today, all sauces can be categorized under one of the five mother sauces, including béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise and tomato sauces. Here is a brief introduction, along with recipes, to them.
Béchamel sauce is also referred to as a basic white sauce. This sauce is great for making cheese based sauces. This sauce is very easy to make and is the absolute best for making a great mac & cheese.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.
Yields: 3 cups
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Velouté sauce is a white sauce using stock and is great sauce for meat. This is very easy to make. The key is when using this sauce you want to pair it with the same meat as the stock you are using. So remember beef with beef, chicken with chicken and fish with fish.
Heat the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.
Meanwhile, in a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the clarified butter over a medium heat until it becomes frothy. Don't let it turn brown, though — that'll affect the flavor.
With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the butter, giving you a pale-yellow-colored paste. This paste is called a roux. Heat the roux for another minute or so to cook off the taste of raw flour.
Using a wire whisk, slowly add the hot chicken stock to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it's free of lumps.
Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about one-third, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn't scorch at the bottom of the pan.
The resulting sauce should be smooth and velvety. If it's too thick, whisk in a bit more hot stock until it's just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the sauce from the heat. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.
Keep the velouté covered until you're ready to use it.
Yields: 1 quart
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Espagnole sauce is a brown sauce. This sauce is widely used in cajun/creole cooking.
Cook carrot and onion in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Add flour and cook roux over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until medium brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Add hot stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then add tomato purée, garlic, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaf and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3 cups, about 45 minutes.
Pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.
Yields: 3 cups
Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Hollandaise is a sauce made with an emulsion of egg yolks and fat. It is generally used with vegetables, fish and egg dishes, such as the classic Eggs Benedict.
Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.
Yields: 1 cup
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Tomato sauce is a great sauce to make in large volume. It freezes well and can be used on various dishes.
1 small carrot or 1/2 large carrot, finely chopped
1 small stalk of celery, including the green tops, finely chopped
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried basil or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tsp. tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and parsley. Stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and cooked through.
Remove cover and add the minced garlic. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook for garlic for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, including the juice and shredding them with your fingers if you are using canned whole tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. If you want you can push the sauce through a food mill to give it a smooth consistency.