Tuesday, June 5

Getting to know the MOTHER SAUCES

Ever heard the term mother sauce, or asked how something was made and it starts with a "base sauce"? Ever wonder what exactly a mother sauce is? It is actually a very good and easily answered question: a mother sauce refers to one of the five basic sauces, from which all other sauces can be made from. The five mother sauces as named by a French chef in the 19th century are: Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise (Mayonnaise), and Vinaigrette.  From these 5 literally hundreds of sauces are made. There was an addition/modification to the five mother sauces in the 20th century, at this time Tomate was added to the list and the Vinaigrette was downplayed. Although, the list is still referred to as the " Five Mother Sauces" it really incorporates the six.

Trying to find out exactly what goes into a mother sauce is sometimes tricky. You can find plenty of information about technique, even a a few hundred base recipes, but most chefs guard there mother sauce recipes very closely. You'll get a great/amazing version of your own, but won't quite taste the same. Which is completely fine, remember the key thing about mother sauces is: they are personal. They need to be based on your likes and dislikes, as long as you stick to the main or key ingredients for the sauce. They need to encompass you on a plate. Most culinary schools or challenges will actually ask their students/competitors to create a new sauce from a mother sauce, to see what can be created.

Before, you can create a new sauce we should look at what each mother sauce really is:
  • Bechamel: is a white sauce and is considered to be the king of all the mother sauces. This is due to it's basic make up which is a cream sauce, therefore it is most commonly used. Bechamel is a roux based sauce: that is a combination of butter and flour, which has been incorporated into milk (or cream). Depending on your proportions the sauce can be made thinner by adding more milk into the base of the roux. If your wondering where the name came from or who created this sauce it was a steward names Louis de Bechamel, he was part of Louis XIV household.

  • Veloute: is also a white sauce. It is made with a stock base usually chicken, veal, or fish. If you are making a veloute, it will often call for the use of bones which have not been roasted. It also begins with a roux, giving it the name "white sauce" however, veloute isn't considered to be a stand alone sauce. Which, means it really is just a base from which other sauce are made and most often it is referred to based on it's stock (example: fish veloute is made with fish stock). The name veloute is a derivative of the French word for velvet, a phrase Marie Antoinette used to refer to the sauce often and so named the sauce.

  • Espanole: is a brown sauce and is rich. Similar to both Bechamel and Veloute, it contains a roux. However, the roux is added into the sauce. Espanole starts with a meat stock and a mirepoix, which is a lightly browned mixture of onions, celery, and carrots. It is also common to see tomatoes added to this mother sauce. History has it that this sauce was created by Louis XIII's bride Anne, who wanted a rich sauce than a French brown sauce for there wedding feast. She desired that Spanish tomatoes be added to the sauce and the rest was, well history. The sauce was name Espanole or Spanish and is pronounce as one would expect.

  • Hollandaise/Mayonnaise: is an emulsion of egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. Hollandaise is probably the trickiest of the mother sauce to make, it need to be done in a double boiler or similar set up, to create the right texture and prevent overheating. The trick is to incorporate the eggs not cook them. Hollandaise is almost always served warm. Its counterpart is Mayonnaise which is almost always served cold and is done usually in a food processor(or by hand in the beginning) some mayonnaise will contain vinegar instead of lemon juice. It is also the most debated sauce, true historian believe the sauce was created in the Netherlands and then imported to the French kitchen. Some believe it was a warm sauce created by a fisherman named E.C. Benedict, sound familiar? That's would be because most commonly Hollandaise is served over eggs Benedict.

  • Vinaigrette: is an emulsion made of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. It is usually 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar but can change based on desired finished outcome. The term vinaigrette is actually nothing more than a shortened version of vinaigrette, which is French Dressing. There really is no history on the beginning of a vinaigrette as it was common in Ancient Rome.

  • Tomate: is a tomato based sauce. It contain the most ingredient for it's traditional base tomatoes (or tomato puree), bay leaves, onion, thyme, salt, pepper, sugar, and a roux. However, it can often contain no roux, as it is added just as a thickening agent. Most often started by stewing the tomatoes first, it is common for stock, wine or water to be added to help them from drying out. The first appearance of Tomate sauce with pasta in Italy was in 1790 but it appears as "in the Spanish way", giving rise to the little known fact that Italy was not it's inventor-just it's perfecter. Actually, as far as history goes, even the French courts seemed to have called adding tomatoes to sauce the Spanish way, so I will give them the credit for this one.

Regardless, of which sauce a recipe call for-it most often has a base similar to one of the fore mentioned Mother Sauces. I find having a good grasp on these basic sauces will help to obtain a better understanding of cooking almost any sauce. Therefor, this year I will be covering and posting the basic recipe for each of these sauces. I hope you enjoy and I hope it helps create a huge sauce collection in your recipe book.