Chef Andy's Technique Class: Mother Sauces

Andy Anderson !

By
@ThePretentiousWichitaChef

Whenever I teach a class on basic cooking skills, this question usually comes up from one my students: What is a “mother” sauce?

This technique class is designed to help you not only understand what mother sauces are, but how they are used to form the basis of all other sauces.

In subsequent classes, I’ll talk about each one, and the classic way to prepare them.

As one of my heroes of cooking, Julia Child, so eloquently put it: “Sauces are the glory and splendor of French cooking.”

Let’s go…


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Serves:

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Method:

No-Cook or Other

Ingredients

fresh ingredients
cooking knowledge
made with care and love

Directions Step-By-Step

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How Many Mother Sauces are there?
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Some purists say four, while most of the rest of us concede that there are five. The French mother sauces were originally four base sauces created by Antonin Careme in the 19th century. The man was a culinary genius… he even made Napoleon’s Wedding cake.
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The original mother sauces set out by Careme’s were Béchamel, Espagnole, Velouté, and Allemande. In the 20th century, Chef Auguste Escoffier added the Hollandaise, dropped Allemande, and replaced it with Sauce Tomat.
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A sauce should be the crowning glory of any dish. And from the basic mother sauces, there are hundreds of variations that are used to dress, compliment, enhance and bring out the flavor of the food they are served with.
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Don’t forget that when a sauce is used on a food, it is the first thing you will taste. In addition, a sauce is only as good as the ingredients you put into it and the care you take while preparing it.
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Before the days of refrigeration, strong sauces were used to mask the off flavors of old food, thankfully in most establishments that’s no longer the case.
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But What Exactly Is a Mother Sauce?
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Simply put, a sauce is flavored liquid plus thickening agent. By varying the combination of liquid, flavoring and thickening agent, the possibilities are endless.
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A “mother” sauce is a base sauce that, once created, can be used to generate other sauces. These five base, or mother sauces are responsible for almost all other sauces.
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One thing you have to admit about the French… they know how to cook, and they know their sauces. I guess you could say that they are a saucy people.
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The Béchamel Sauce
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To make a, Béchamel Sauce, cook fat (typically butter) and flour together to make a roux, then whisk in some milk (typically whole milk). The thickness depends on the ratio of flour to fat, and the amount of added milk. The more milk, the thinner the sauce will be.
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Additional Flavorings:
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White Onion, Clove, Bay Leaf, Salt, White Pepper, and Nutmeg.
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Sauces Made from a Béchamel:
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Cream Sauce, Mornay, Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Mustard Sauce, and Nantua, to name a few.
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Traditionally Served with:
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Eggs, Fish, Steamed Poultry, Steamed Vegetables, Pastas, and Veal.
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The Veloute Sauce
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A Veloute is a white sauce that’s made just like a Béchamel, except it’s with chicken, veal, or fish stock in place of the of milk.
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Additional Flavorings:
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None… this is used as a pure base sauce.
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Sauces Made from a Veloute:
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Venetian sauce, Suprême sauce, Sauce Vin Blanc (White Wine Sauce), , Sauce Allemande, Sauce Poulette, Sauce Bercy, and Sauce Normandy.
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Additional Uses:
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Add in tarragon, shallots, and chervil for Venetian Sauce, or make Sauce Albufera by adding in a little meat glaze (reduced brown sauce).
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Traditionally Served with:
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Eggs, Fish, Steamed Poultry, Steamed Vegetables, Pastas, and Veal.
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The Tomat Sauce, or Tomato Sauce
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The Tomat sauce is made with tomatoes (raw, tomato paste, tomato puree, stewed tomatoes). I think that we all have our favorite variation of a good tomato sauce. It is classically thickened with a roux, a reduction, or purees.
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Additional Flavorings:
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Salt Pork, Mirepoix, Garlic, White Veal Stock, Salt & Pepper, Sugar.
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Sauces Made from a Tomat:
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Most variations concentrate on various spices.
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Traditionally Served with:
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Pasta, Fish, Vegetables (Especially Grilled), Polenta, Veal, Poultry (Especially Chicken), Breads and Dumplings such as Gnocchi.
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The Espagnole Sauce
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A brown sauce. Made by combining a dark brown roux, tomato paste, browned veggies, herbs, and rich meat stock.
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Additional Flavorings:
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Mirepoix, Sachet (Bay Leaf, Fresh Thyme, Parsely), Tomato Puree
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Sauces Made from a Espagnole:
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Demi-Glace, Bordelaise, Sauce Robert, Lyonnaise, Sauce Madeira, Sauce Bercy, and Sauce Chasseur.
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Traditionally Served with:
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Roasted meats, especially beef, duck, veal, lamb
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The Hollandaise Sauce
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Hollandaise is a rich, buttery yellow sauce. It consists of egg yolks and lemon juice, whisked together with small amounts of oil so that the fat emulsifies, then it’s enriched with butter.
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Additional Flavorings:
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Peppercorns (Black), White Wine Vinegar, Salt, Lemon Juice, and Cayenne Pepper.
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Sauces Made from a Hollandaise:
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Bearnaise, Maltaise, Mousseline, Foyot, Choron, and Mayonnaise
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Traditionally Served with:
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Eggs (Eggs Benedict), Vegetables (especially Asparagus), light poultry dishes, fish, Beef (Bernaise Sauce)
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TIPS FOR MAKING GREAT SAUCES
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• Constantly stir roux-thickened sauces while cooking to prevent lumps.
• If you must leave the sauce for a few seconds, set the pan off the heat during that time.
• If a roux-thickened sauce develops a few lumps, beat them out with a rotary beater or wire whisk. As a last resort, strain sauce with sieve to remove lumps.
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• Cook egg-thickened sauces over low heat, or cook these sauces in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water.
• Always temper (warm) the egg yolks before adding them to the sauce by first stirring in a little of the hot sauce mixture into them. Then add to the remainder of the sauce mixture.
• Never let a sauce boil after the egg yolks are added.
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• Don't let water boil in the bottom of the double boiler if you use it to make egg-thickened sauces.
• Finally, be sure that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pan holding the sauce.
• Master the making of Roux ("roo"), a principal thickening agent, and you will have a whole bunch of French sauces at your fingertips
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• Heating equal parts in weight of flour and fat (usually butter) will produce a white roux (5 mins), a blond roux (20 mins) or a brown roux (35 mins).
• The darker the Roux, the nuttier the flavor.
• Emulsifying is another great skill to crack. Technically it means adding two liquids that do not usually mix, like oil and vinegar.
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Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

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