Foods You Should Know: The 5 Mother Sauces

Foods You Should Know has not really broached on many classic dishes or foods so on today’s Braised Blue, we will be talking about the five mother sauces which make up kind of the backbone of french cuisine.

Think of the five mother sauces as the bosses of crime families. These mother sauces have their own very distinct technique but these techniques and recipes can be tweaked to make other sauces. If Hollandaise sauce was a crime family that a Béarnaise sauce would be the underboss of the Hollandaise sauce family.

Before we get started there are two things that most of these sauces need before you can start. Either a Roux or a Stock or both. A roux is a thickening agent in three of the mother sauces. It’s basically flour and fat* simmered until they have been integrated. Depending on how long you cook the roux the colour will be different ranging from white to black. A stock is a flavoured water preparation made from meat, vegetables, bones etc.

Béchamel Sauce:

Also known as a white sauce, milk, flour and butter are all you need to make a basic béchamel sauce, but normally onions, herbs and nutmeg are incorporated. Béchamel should be quite thick and can be used in many different applications usually in baked pastas.

Some of the other classic sauces which are based off of the Béchamel are the Mornay Sauce which is made with cheese. Nantua Sauce which is made with shellfish, butter and cream. Creme Sauce which is made with heavy cream. Mustard Sauce which is made with mustard seeds.

What you should make with a béchamel based sauce? Try something easy. Make your own macaroni and cheese. Create a mornay sauce and use that as your cheese sauce for the macaroni for a super rich and delicious version of Kraft Dinner.

Veloute Sauce: 

A Veloute is one of the oldest of the mother sauces. It starts with a chicken/veal/fish stock which is thickened with a white roux it has much less thickness than a béchamel sauce. Veloute sauce is a great all purpose started for soups.

Some other classic sauces based on the veloute are Allemande sauce which adds egg yolks, heavy cream and lemon juice. The Normandy sauce which adds fish and oyster stock and mushrooms. Hungarian sauce which adds onions, paprika and white wine. And the sauce vin blanc also known as White Wine sauce.

What you should make with a veloute? Making a great chicken pot pie with a veloute sauce is a great way to pack a bunch of flavour into a classic comfort food dish.

Espagnole Sauce:

Also known as a brown sauce an Espagnole sauce is very similar to the veloute in that it’s a mixture of a brown stock** and a roux, but it also adds tomato paste and mirepoix***. What comes out is a flavourful sauce which can be used in many applications and this sauce can be made into a demi-glaze by adding an equal part brown stock and reducing by half.

Some other classic sauces which are derived from Espagnole are: Marchand du Vin Sauce(Aka red wine reduction) which adds red wine and is reduced by half. The Lyonnaise which added onions fried in butter. The Robert sauce which add challots, white wine, butter and mustard seed. The Chasseur sauce which add mushrooms, white wine, shallow and tomato confiture.

How can you use an espagnole sauce? I love to make an espagnole sauce to go with a beer roast or grilled pork or game meat. It is not an easy sauce to make but it packs a huge flavour punch.

Hollandaise Sauce:

Hollandaise sauce is the most distinct of the mother sauces in it’s preparation and it’s flavour. The other sauces use roux and stock but hollandaise is an emulsification of clarified butter and egg yolk. Flavour wise the sauce is buttery and tangy. As a note on the safety of hollandaise based sauces, the use of clarified butter is very tricky as it needs to be simmered at a low heat which can be a potent breeding ground for bacteria. I tend to not trust hollandaise sauce at restaurants because it is very easy to neglect and e coli is not fun.

The classic sauces that derivate from hollandaise are: Bearnaise sauce, which adds tarragon and chervil with either a meat glaze or a tomato glaze. Maltaise sauce which adds blood orange. Noisette which add brown butter. Bravaroise adds a reduction of peppers, horseradish, thyme, bay leaf, vinegar and crayfish.

What can you make with hollandaise sauce? Bearnaise sauce is an amazing addition to a steak. It really matches well with the big meat flavours which are contrasted by the tanginess and herbal quality of the sauce.

Tomato Sauce: 

This is much like a tomato sauce you would use on your pasta but it is much more complex in flavour and a little tougher to make. Tomato sauce uses salted pork for a stock base as well as a hambone with tomatoes and other aromatic veggies.**** The sauce will be sweet but savoury as well, and it will be thicker than your normal pasta sauce.

Some other classic sauces that derivate from tomato sauce are: Provençal sauce which adds mushrooms, sugar, garlic, parsley and oil. Portugaise which adds fried onions, tomato concasse, meat glaze, garlic and parsley. Meat sauce which adds ground or chunked meat to the tomato sauce

What can you do with a tomato sauce? Put it on your pasta. It’s much more intense and flavourful than the crap you get out of a can or bottle. It takes about 30 minutes to make and it’s beautiful stuff.

*Normally butter

**Brown stock comes from the roasted bones of beef or veal. It is a much richer stock than chicken.

***Mirepoix is a combination of onions, celery and carrots which can be added to a stock to add flavour. You can either strain the mirepoix or add the mixture wrapped in a cheese cloth.

****Onion, garlic, shallot