What are the 5 french mother sauces every cook should master?
There are very few things the French would take more seriously than cooking. Choosing the right wine, perhaps? France is a country that has well and truly earned its reputation as a world leader in gastronomy, and understandably French culture is all about food, and of course, sauces are essential to almost any dish. Did you know there are five “mother sauces” unique to French cuisine? These are the absolutely timeless sauces perfect for creating a wide variety of delicious French dishes. You will need to get familiar with the concept of “roux”, a special cooked mixture of fat and flour that is generally used to thicken sauces and soups. The French mother sauces were originally four base sauces as defined by Antonin Careme in the 19th century (Allemande, Béchamel, Velouté and Espagnole). In the 20th century, chef August Escoffier demoted Sauce Allemande to a secondary sauce of velouté, and added Sauce Tomat and Hollandaise.
Bechamel is a wonderfully versatile, creamy white sauce that you’ve surely already added to a few dishes at home.
It is made with a white roux base, which is melted butter mixed with flour. Next, you’ll need to add a generous quantity of milk to the roux over a low heat, whisking constantly to ensure a smooth texture without lumps. A sprinkling of grated or powdered nutmeg is often added at the end. Salt and pepper to taste. Bechamel is used for croque-monsieurs, gratins, pies, lasagna and often with poultry and fish.
Hollandaise sauce, meaning “Dutch sauce” is a French concoction and the connection to the Netherlands remains unclear to this day. It is the perfect brunch companion over poached eggs. Both Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine require hollandaise sauce and are all the more delicious for it. This delicate mix of butter and beaten egg yolks requires careful whisking and should be kept warm throughout preparation, we recommend using a bain-marie. To complete, add a dash of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sometimes a dash of water or white wine vinegar is required depending on the consistency of the sauce. Hollandaise should always be served warm and goes well with asparagus, broccoli, poultry, salmon, and even crab.
Despite the name meaning “Spanish Sauce”, this sauce is 100% French and it is believed that the name was chosen due to Spaniards having darker features than the French. Sauce Espagnole is a basic brown sauce made of brown roux with beef or veal stock, tomato puree, mirepoix (a sautéed mix of diced onions, carrots and celery), bay leaves, thyme and parsley. It can be used as the foundation for beef bourgignon. Sauce Espagnole is a popular accompaniment for beef dishes, mushrooms and root vegetables.
Velouté takes its name from the French term for velvety, which nicely sums up the divine texture of this sauce which is often served as a soup-like entrée. Velouté is a savory sauce made from roux and a light stock – meaning one in which the bones used have not been previously roasted. In preparing a velouté sauce, a light stock, such as chicken or fish stock, is thickened with a blond roux.
Therefore, the ingredients of a velouté should be equal parts of butter and flour to form the roux and a light chicken or fish stock, with some salt and pepper to season as needed. The French have adapted veloutés using seasonal vegetables as well, which are also a true delight.
Sauce Tomat is made by cooking tomatoes down into a thick sauce with a little bit of flair. It is prepared by combining rendered pork fat from salt pork belly with mirepoix (sautéed diced onions, carrots, celery), roux, veal stock all simmered together in a medium oven for two hours. This wonderful combination of flavors creates an incredibly rich and tasty sauce.