The Mother Sauces

I’ve learned a lot about cooking the last few years and even more in the last year. Being engaged to a Chef has opened my eyes to new ways of cooking, the proper words for foods and all sorts of new television shows that I wouldn’t have watched before. It’s fun to learn, and especially to learn about something that you need to survive. Of course, we don’t need to eat fancy foods with french names to live, but it makes it a little more fun! Who doesn’t like saying words in French just for the fun of it? I know I do.  Merci Beaucoup!

According to French Chef August Escoffier there are five “mother sauces” from which all other sauces derive. For example, I started with a roux, then added milk and got a bechamel, then added cheese and got a mornay. See how that goes?

Three out of the five mother sauces {Bechamel, Espagnole and Veloute}  require a roux {pronounced roo} to start. A roux by definition is a substance created by cooking flour and a fat {traditionally butter}. Roux acts as a thickening agent for the sauces.

Roux is made by combining equal parts flour and butter over low heat while whisking {or stirring} constantly taking care not to let the mixture burn. If you need a thicker sauce, use more flour and butter.

Other fats that can be used to form a roux are: bacon fat, vegetable oil, coconut oil, lard. Though these may not lend to as thick of a roux as butter would.

The five mother sauces

There are five mother sauces and they are as follows:

Bechamel Sauce

The Ingredients: Flour, Butter, Milk

The Preparation: As I mentioned above, Bechamel sauce is made by starting with a roux. After your butter and flour are incorporated together, you slowly add in your milk {3/4 to 1 cup of milk per tablespoon of flour and butter will result in a thin, easily spreadable sauce. Increase the butter and flour ratio if you want a thicker sauce}. It is traditional practice to add in salt and white pepper {thought I just use black pepper} and a pinch of nutmeg.

The Uses: Croque Monseiur, Gratin, Alfredo, Croquettes


Espagnole Sauce

most commonly known as a brown sauce

The Ingredients: flour, butter, beef or veal stock

The Preparation: Start with a very thick brown roux and add your beef stock until thickened. {Traditionally, beef bones and water are used to make the beef stock. This requires skimming the pot every few hours and letting it cook over low heat for a very long time, while checking on it often and adding water. This is too much trouble for me so I just use pre-made beef stock}

The Uses:  {Traditional} Sauce Africaine, Sauce Bigarade, Sauce Bourguignonne, Sauce aux Champignons, Sauce charcutière, Sauce Chasseur, Sauce Chevreuil and Demi-glace

{Home} I use this sauce for making my ox tail stew and any time I make a beef stew.


Hollandaise Sauce

The Ingredients: egg yolk, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper{1 egg yolk to 4-6 tablespoons of butter}

The Preparation: This is not an easy one folks. Hollandaise takes some skill and patience and may not turn out correctly the first few times you do it.

There are two methods for this one:

{Traditional} In a double boiler, whisk your eggs with a touch of lemon juice over low heat until thick and pale yellow. The, very slowly whisk in your melted butter. This should make a thick sauce.

{The Alton Brown Method} In a double boiler as above, whisk your eggs without any acid {NO lemon juice or vinegar} until thick and pale yellow. Remove from heat and add in cold butter cubes a few at a time allowing the warm eggs to melt the butter. Once the mixture has cooled enough that it will no longer melt the butter, return to the double boiler to finish. Add a few drops of lemon as a finishing flavor.

The Uses: Eggs benedict, steak sauces


Tomato Sauce

does not require a roux

The Ingredients: In simplest form – tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper

The Preparation: Sweat tomato in olive oil until they lose their raw flavor.

Realistically, however, no one uses just tomatoes for their tomato sauce. You would start by sweating onions and garlic, then adding your tomatoes along with some olive oil. Commonly, water or stock is added to help the sauce from drying out. In addition to all of this, most people add Italian seasonings such as basil, parsley and oregano. Often times, a ground meat will be added to the sauce.

Feel free to get creative with tomato sauce. There is no right or wrong with this one!

The Uses: most commonly used for pasta dishes and pizza. If you’re low carb, pair it with zucchini or other vegetables.


Veloute Sauce

The Ingredients: butter, flour, chicken or fish stock, salt and pepper

The Preparation: Make your light roux with equal parts flour and butter and add a light stock such as chicken or fish stock {one where the bones have not been previously roasted}.

This one is easy to do at home. You can use canned chicken stock for this {of course making your own stock would be much better}. Let this thicken and you’ve got your sauce!

The Uses: used to top fish and chicken meals


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