Just like The Fabulous Five cooking methods, there are also five basic sauces that I call, “The Mother Load of Sauces”. These are the parts of a recipe that make you go, “Mmmmmm” and “Ohhhhhhh”, and “Hell YES that’s good!”
They are the foundation to your cheesey appetizers, the glue to your melding flavors, the glaze to your grill, the topping to your pastas, and the creamy, rich must-have to your eggs Benedict.
These are The 5 Mother Load of Sauces and we have the French to thank for their gastronomy.
In this post we review each of the five Mother Load of Sauces so you see how each is used to complement your main dish. Maybe have tried all five, or maybe you didn’t know what they were called, either way, sauces are an extremely important part to get comfortable and feel confident in your kitchen.
Stick with me to learn how to make each sauce and see how to pair them with the right recipes. You may be surprised to find out that you are already making these, you just didn’t know it!
The Mother Load of Sauces…
As I said, in this post we focus on these five sauces, but I want you to know that the sauce doesn’t stop there. There are also two contemporary sauces — coulis and salsas.
…And then the light butter sauces and reductions.
Oh sheesh, I really don’t mean to screw with you, but I also don’t want to leave you high and dry. These sauces are all delicious parts of a recipe, but I’m just naming them for now. Again, today the focus is the five Mother Load of Sauces.
(You have to laugh…right?!?!?!)
Why We Sauce.
Sauces are crucial to cooking because they can infuse and change the flavor profile of an entire dish. They can serve as a base to your finished product, or the topping that makes the mouthful. They can be altered to your individual tastes, or made basic for a sauce that everyone remembers.
Think of it this way…they slap the pretty, the sexy, the texture, and the aroma on your roast chicken to make it something exciting, fresh, new, and to-die-for. Can you dig it?
What’s in a Mother Load Sauce?
The first four sauces of The Mother Load of Sauces — Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, and Tomato — use a binder, or “glue” so-to-speak that holds the sauce together. That glue is what we call a “roux”.
A roux is typically made up of equal parts flour and fat (preferably butter if you’re in my kitchen).
Now, regarding Hollandaise…the exception to the rule (there’s always at least one, right?). Hollandaise requires its own magical method to creating, and that is emulsification. You know what happens when you mix oil and water together?
…You can shake the crap out it, and while it seems to combine as you shake, the minute you stop, the two substances head to their separate corners. To make them combine like you want, you need emulsifiers to step in and suspend the oil in the water permanently. These emulsifiers are your sauce “peacekeepers”.
To create a successful emulsion, you need force and an emulsifier.
Force usually comes in the form of whisking or blending to break apart the oil, thereby dispersing it through the surrounding liquid.
The emulsifier then keeps the oil and water from retreating back into itself. For example the use of an egg yolk in Hollandaise sauce, or mayo and mustard in vinaigrette.
Alright, let’s break these Mother’s down…
A béchamel sauce is made by whisking a roux (equal parts of flour and butter) into milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream to produce a white sauce. Recipes that call for a béchamel base include macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes, white sauce pizza, or even lasagna.
Béchamel by itself is very bland, so it’s typically cooked with other ingredients and not used as a finishing sauce.
A velouté, or brown sauce, sauce starts with a light blond roux – made with 1/3 four and 2/3 butter. The roux consistency is very wet and feels like wet sand on a beach. The sand-like roux is then mixed with chicken, turkey, fish, beef, or any other clear stock.
(FYI, if you’re making your stock at home, use unroasted bones to get the full-effect of flavors.)
This Mother Load Sauce is completely up to improvisation…you can add cream, wine, juice, or just about anything with the flavors you’re searching for. The sauce takes on the flavor of the liquid so choose something that will pair well with the main product.
The end result for this sauce is flavorful and velvety – which makes sense since this French named sauce, velouté, translates to “velvet”. It’s a smooth, but light and delicate sauce meant for topping.
Serve a velouté over fish or poultry that has been delicately cooked by poaching or steaming. I use a velouté sauce when making chicken or beef pot pies to give the hearty dish a more delicate flavor. I also use a velouté in cream of mushroom soup by first creating mushroom stock from the stems, bits, and pieces of dried reconstituted mushrooms.
Espagnole sauce is a basic brown sauce made from beef or poultry stock, tomatoes, and a cooked mirepoix of ½ onion, ¼ celery, and ¼ carrots. These ingredients are combined and thickened with the help of a dark brown roux – which cooks longer than a typical roux to achieve the dark brown color you want.
This Mother Load Sauce can be used as base for beef bourguignon and demi-glace, as a topping for roasted or grilled beef, pork, lamb, wild game, and poultry including duck, pheasant, and quail.
This is one of the most familiar of The Mother Load of Sauces. Tomato sauce is known as the classic red sauce topping a number of Italian dishes – spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, and many more hearty pastas.
Tomato sauce can of course be bought in many forms in the grocery store, but if you want fresh from the kitchen sauce, cook tomatoes down into a thick sauce, or thicken with the help of a roux. If the bottle is your go-to, that’s great. Flavor it up with some fresh garlic and herbs or zippy spices to make it your own.
As you may already know, tomato sauce is versatile enough to be flavored with just about anything or everything…oregano, basil, onion, garlic, cayenne, coriander, white wine, béchamel, vodka…and the list goes on and on. Typically served under pasta, fish, chicken, pork, beef, potatoes, veggies…again, the opportunities are endless!
Hollandaise is that one exception to the rule (remember?). Instead of relying on a roux to thicken, this Mother Load Sauce uses an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter.
It’s a delicate sauce due to the emulsion process, which can easily break, but its rich flavor makes it a decadent dipping sauce for asparagus, artichokes, and broccoli. Hollandaise is most famous for topping the popular breakfast and brunch dish, eggs Benedict.
Sure, it’s not the healthiest of sauces, but when you want to indulge, a Hollandaise sauce could be the best way to make it worth it. Add additional herbs, citrus, and other flavorings to pair it with whatever hikes your skirt.
There you have it, The Mother Load of Sauces according to Chef Gerrie. Stay tuned for more sauce explosions, specific recipes, and pairings for the perfect mouthful.
What’s your favorite sauce? Got a short-cut to flavor? Please share in the comments section below or on my Facebook page, Chef Gerrie’s Chef Jungle.