Sauces are an important part of many cuisines, especially French. Can you imagine your favorite French dish without a sauce? Hollandaise, bechamel, Espagnole, veloute and tomato -- these are the main sauces that were developed by master culinarians Antonin Careme and Auguste Escoffier. They called them the mother sauces -- and the name fits perfectly because each sauce can be further adapted to create different sauces or to fit different needs of a particular recipe.
The mother sauces are often used to dress dishes, but also serve as bases for other recipes. For example, bechamel can be a topping, as well as a base, for making macaroni and cheese or lasagna. Espagnole sauce can be reduced to a silky viscosity called demi-glace, which can further be used in recipes to add depth of flavor.
To learn more about the five French mother sauces, browse the gallery below. Watch the videos to learn how to produce the sauces at home.
What is your favorite sauce? Vote in the slideshow or leave a comment below.
All you need are butter, flour and milk to make bechamel sauce. It is one of the simplest mother sauces. Make bechamel by melting butter and adding flour to create a white roux. Add hot milk while whisking to create the rich and creamy sauce. The milk can be infused with onion, bay leaf or cloves. Grated nutmeg is typically added. Use bechamel on dishes like eggs, fish, chicken, vegetables and pasta. Bechamel can easily be turned into a cheese sauce, called Mornay, by stirring in grated melting cheeses, like Cheddar or Gruyere. This cheese base is also traditional for macaroni and cheese. Recipes: Mushroom and Goat Cheese Bechamel Pizzas Roasted Squash and Spinach Lasagna Macaroni and Many Cheeses
Much like mayonnaise, hollandaise is an emulsion that has clarified butter (instead of oil) incorporated into egg yolks. Make hollandaise by first whisking warmed egg yolks until ribbony, then slowly whisk in clarified butter. Lemon juice can be added for flavor. Use hollandaise on eggs, poultry, fish or vegetables. It's most well known as the sauce on eggs benedict. Hollandaise can easily be turned into bearnaise sauce by whisking in vinegar, tarragon and shallots instead of lemon. Recipes: Blender Hollandaise Eggs Benedict Poached Eggs and Satsuma Hollandaise over Crab Cakes
Veloute sauce is much like bechamel, except instead of milk, stock is whisked into the roux. Make veloute by melting butter and adding flour to create a blonde roux. Add hot white stock (veal, chicken or fish) while whisking to create the rich sauce. Use veloute on eggs, poultry, meat and vegetables.
French tomato sauce is a bit different than Italian tomato sauce, but nowadays most people follow the Italian method, which doesn't include a roux. Make tomato sauce by sauteing a mirepoix of vegetables (chopped celery, carrot and onion) in butter or oil. Add fresh or canned tomatoes and stock, and simmer until thickened. The sauce can be pureed. Traditionally it was thickened with a roux. Use tomato sauce on pasta, fish, poultry, meat or vegetables. And of course what's pizza without tomato sauce. Tomato sauce can be adapted in many ways to create Spanish sauce, Creole sauce or Portuguese sauce -- it all depends on the seasoning. Hot pepper, paprika and other spices can be used to make these sauces. Recipes: Tuscan Tomato Sauce Cod with Tomato-Cream Sauce Veal and Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Espagnole sauce is basically a brown sauce, similar to a dark roux. Espagnole sauce starts with sauteing a mirepoix of vegetables (carrot, celery and onion) in butter until nearly caramelized. Add flour and continue cooking until dark brown. Tomato paste can be added if you wish. Add brown stock incrementally until the sauce is incorporated. Use espagnole on roasted meats, like beef, veal, lamb or duck. Typically espagnole is used as a base to make other sauces like demi-glace, bordelaise or chasseur. Recipes: Chicken and Okra Gumbo New Beef Wellington