National Sauce Month comes to Torrevieja
Five mother sauces give birth to hundreds of offspring
March is National Sauce Month in the United States, which got me thinking – just how many sauces are there? The answer is hundreds, if not thousands. A great sauce takes any food to another level. Think about it, and you’ll realise that you know at least one person who has a certain sauce with practically every food they eat.
Yep, a sauce is often the key that unlocks the real flavour of our food. Yet, most people don’t make their own sauces. It’s so easy to buy a ready-made sauce from the supermarket, or a packet to which you simply add water, that we’re losing the art of making sauces at home.
In this post, I’ll take a quick look at what are called the five mother sauces – from which most hot sauces are derived.
What is a sauce?
First, let’s define what a sauce is.
Well, a sauce is a liquid or semi-solid foodstuff. To be a sauce, it must be added to other food. Why do we do this? To:
- Add moisture
- Give a better visual experience (we eat with our eyes first)
- Enhance the flavour of the food that the sauce accompanies
Sauces can either be hot or cold, and served with savoury or sweet dishes. It could quite reasonably be argued that sauces include salsas, dressings, coulis, salad dressings, chutneys, and so on.
Thank the French for their sauciness
Three are five basic sauces, each of which are now created using French culinary methods. The French do like a bit of sauce. Most other sauces are created using one of these five mother sauces as a base. So, what are they?
- Béchamel, a creamy, milk-based sauce which is thickened with a white roux
- Hollandaise, which is what we call an emulsion, made with egg yolk, butter, and lemon (or vinegar)
- Velouté, which is made thicker using either a roux or a liaison (a combination of egg yolk and cream)
- Espagnole, which is a fortified brown veal velouté, and is thickened with a brown roux
- Tomato, which is what it says – a tomato-based sauce
Mother sauces are a chef’s building blocks
Each of these sauces can be used on its own as an accompanying sauce. However, by adding other ingredients, you can create any number of other sauces to suit different foods and individual tastes. These mother sauces are extremely versatile, and are used as pseudo-ingredients themselves.
For example, let’s take béchamel, a sauce that is a key ingredient in lasagne and macaroni cheese. Also, it’s a sauce that is the foundation of cream sauces, such as Alfredo sauce.
And if you take hollandaise sauce and add vinegar, herbs, and shallots… Voila! Béarnaise sauce.
Unfortunately, in many restaurants you no longer hear the classic sauce names. Perhaps this is a symptom of losing the ability to create sauces at home. Instead of béchamel, you’ll find that menus offer a white or cream sauce; espagnole has become demi-glace; hollandaise is a butter sauce; velouté is a blonde sauce; and, perhaps the worst of all, tomato has become red sauce.
Next time you’re in the kitchen, why not make your own sauce? Have a little fun and eat more healthily in the process.
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