What Are The 5 Basic Mother Sauces?
Source of Recipe
By Celeste Stewart Published June 02, 2008
What Are The 5 Basic Mother Sauces?
Mother Sauces And How You Can Adapt Them
List of Ingredients
When watching the Food Network or thumbing through cooking magazines, you may run into the term “mother sauces.” No, Emeril hasn’t just invented the “mother of all sauces.” This term dates back to the early 1800s, when French chef Antonin Careme broke down sauces into five categories known as the five mother sauces. These sauces provide the foundation for hundreds of different sauces that have mystified many amateur cooks. By learning the basics of each mother-sauce category, you will be well on your way toward making your own fantastic derivatives.
The Five Mother Sauces
Mother sauces date back to the 18th century, when lack of refrigeration caused foods to spoil much faster. Sauces were often used to cover up the flavor of less-than-perfect meats, poultry and seafood. The five mother sauces include béchamel sauce, veloute sauce, brown or Espagnole sauce, Hollandaise sauce and tomato sauce. These sauces are also collectively referred to in French as “sayces meres” or “grandes sauces.”
Each sauce has a distinct characteristic: Béchamel sauce is white, veloute sauce is blond, Espagnole sauce is brown, Hollandaise sauce is buttery and tomato sauce is red. One look at a sauce and you should quickly be able to ascertain the mother sauce from which it is derived.
The reason mother sauces have stood the test of time is that they are incredibly versatile and provide the basic foundation on which you can build dozens of other sauces. For example, if you add diced shallots, white wine or vinegar, tarragon and peppercorns to Hollandaise sauce, you have a derivative known as béarnaise sauce.
What Exactly is a Sauce?
Before you can fully appreciate the mother sauces, you should know what a sauce is. Sauces are thickened liquids used to add richness, flavor and moisture to a dish. Drier foods – such as grilled meats, roasts or meatloaf – are often enhanced with sauces and gravies.
Sauces typically contain a liquid, thickener and various flavorings and seasonings. French mother sauces use milk (béchamel sauce), white stock (veloute), brown stock (Espagnole), clarified butter (Hollandaise), and tomato (tomato sauce) as the liquid base for each type of sauce.
Several mixtures are used for thickening sauces, including:
* Roux – a cooked mixture of equal parts of flour and fat (such as butter, oil or meat drippings). The amount of cooking time affects the color. For example, roux starts out white before progressing to blond and brown as it cooks.
* Whitewash or slurry – a mixture of flour and cold water
* Cornstarch – a mixture of cornstarch and cold water
* Liaison – egg yolks that have first been tempered with hot stock (so they don’t scramble) before being added to the liquid
Adding thickeners to sauces usually requires a slow, continuous whipping technique to prevent lumps from forming. Once successfully added to the liquid, all thickeners must come to a boil before they reach their full thickening and holding potential.
The base stock, or liquid used for a sauce, provides much of the flavor. From here, several methods exist for enhancing flavor, including adding wine, lemon juice, vinegar, seasonings, herbs and cheese, as well as reducing the sauce to concentrate its flavor.
Wine is often used in sauces, as are acids such as lemon juice and vinegar. Seasonings such as salt, pepper and cayenne are also used to give a sauce a new flavor. Other ingredients such as cheese can take a bland béchamel sauce and turn it into a zesty cheese sauce.'
Chefs have been taking basic sauces from the list of five mother sauces and enhancing them with different flavors and seasonings for generations. Because of the endless list of derivatives, hundreds of different sauces are possible. Once you know the basic mother sauces, you too can begin creating your own signature sauce.
Creating the Five Mother Sauces
Béchamel Sauce – Béchamel sauce, or white sauce, was a sauce most often served to the rich or to royalty. Made out of a roux of flour, boiled milk and butter, the creamy white sauce added a smooth touch to white meats such as chicken, vegetables and eggs. In the years before refrigeration, milk products were rarely used in the recipes of the average French housewife.
Veloute Sauce – Veloute sauce is often called the “fat white sauce” or “rich white sauce.” This is a white sauce with a blondish color that starts with chicken, veal or fish stock that has been thickened with a white roux. Common derivatives of this sauce include allemande sauce (veal), supreme sauce (chicken), and vin blance sauce (fish). For example, allemande sauce is based on veal veloute with egg yolk and cream, while supreme sauce is a chicken veloute that has been reduced with heavy cream. Vin blanc sauce is a fish veloute enhanced with herbs, butter and shallots.
Brown or Espagnole Sauce – This sauce starts with a dark brown roux, veal stock, beef, bones, vegetables and seasonings. It is heated, skimmed and reduced. After the initial reduction, tomato sauce is added, and the sauce is further reduced. The entire process is time-consuming, taking hours (if not days) until the sauce is ready. The flavor of Espagnole sauce is concentrated and intense, so it is rarely served directly on food.
Instead, Espagnole sauce is often used as the base for derivative sauces such as demi-glace, sauce chevreuil and sauce bourguignonne. For example, demi-glace is made by adding an equal portion of veal stock to the Espagnole sauce.
Hollandaise Sauce – Hollandaise sauce is a rich sauce featuring egg yolks and butter. While France made its own butter for many years, they imported butter from Holland during World War I. During this time, the sauce formerly known as “sauce Isigny” became known as Hollandaise sauce. When butter production resumed in France, the name remained the same. Making Hollandaise sauce requires practice to get it right. Care must be taken so the butter doesn’t curdle.
Tomato Sauce – Tomato sauces are based on tomatoes. A common derivative sauce based on tomato sauce is marinara sauce.
Other Sauce-Making Techniques
While the mother sauces are the basic foundation upon which many sauces are built, you can use a few other techniques, such as adding thickeners directly to the juices left in a pan after sautéing and adding vegetable puree or bread crumbs to thicken sauces instead of adding fat. Today’s cooks are moving away from thick, creamy sauces loaded with fats in favor of lighter glazes and sauces.
Starting out with any of the five mother sauces – béchamel, veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise or tomato – you can branch out in the kitchen and create delectable derivative sauces. Whether you follow a specific recipe, such as making béarnaise sauce, or venture out to create your own is up to you.
Start by learning the basics of sauce-making and then get creative in the kitchen. With a firm understanding of liquids, thickeners and seasonings, you’ll soon be able to make mouthwatering sauces of your own that French chefs would be proud of. In addition, once you know the basics, you’ll be better able to adapt your recipes for flavor or lower fat options.