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France's Five Mother Sauces

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0
Mayones
Credit: FotoosVanRobin

Sauces have been used since ancient times to enhance the flavor of meats, salads and desserts.

From Asia came soy sauce, fish sauce and curry sauce which are now used in many homes and restaurants throughout the world. 

Apple sauce, tomato sauce, gravy, mayonnaise, white sauces and brown sauces are just a few out of the many sauces which were introduced to the world from countries  belonging to the European and North American continents. 

France is a country with many varieties of sauces and it wasn’t until the 1800’s a famous chef by the name of Antonin Careme classified the sauces into five separate categories making it easier to be identified.

These five basic sauces were called ‘the five mother sauces.’ It gained popularity in many parts of the world since the sauces could be made using simple ingredients.

Below are the recipes of France’s ‘five mother sauces.’


Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

  • Butter – 2 tablespoons
  • Flour – 2 tablespoons
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • 1 onion with 3 cloves inserted into it.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dash of powdered nutmeg


Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour a little at a time stirring constantly until fully mixed (about 4-5 minutes). Then add the salt.

Gently pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture stirring non-stop to avoid lumps from forming. Add the onion, bay leaf and powdered nutmeg and cook the sauce till it thickens. 

*Bechamel Sauce goes great with macaroni if cheese, celery salt and some chopped parsley is added to the sauce.

Veloute Sauce

  • Stock – 2 cups (can use chicken, veal or fish stock)
  • Butter – 4 tablespoons
  • Flour – 4 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour a little at a time stirring constantly until fully mixed (about 4-5 minutes).

Gently pour the stock into the butter and flour mixture stirring constantly to avoid lumps from forming. Add the salt and pepper and simmer until thick.

*Veloute Sauce is ideal to be served with vegetables and meat dishes like chicken, veal and fish.

Espagnole Sauce (Brown Sauce)

  • 1 carrot – chopped
  • 1 onion –chopped
  • ½ stick butter 
  • Flour – ¼ cup
  • Beef stock – 4 cups
  • 2 garlic cloves – chopped
  • ¼ can tomato purée
  • 1 stalk celery – chopped
  • Black peppercorns – ½ teaspoon
  • 1 Bay leaf

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and sauté the chopped carrots and onion till medium brown in color.

Add the flour a little at a time stirring constantly. When the flour is a golden color gently pour in the stock whisking non-stop to avoid lumps from forming.

Add the cloves, tomato purée, chopped celery, peppercorns and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Then lower the flame and simmer for 45-50 minutes stirring occasionally until the sauce is of a thick consistency.

The sauce will be reduced to about 3 cups. Strain using a cheesecloth or sieve and serve.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • Butter – ½ cup melted
  • Egg yolks – 4
  • Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon 
  • Salt to taste

Heat water in a double boiler over medium heat. 

Whisk together the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl until thick. Place the bowl over the double boiler but don’t let the bowl touch the water in the boiler as the eggs can get scrambled. Instead only allow the steam from the water to heat the bottom of the bowl as you are whisking the egg and lemon juice.

Add the melted butter by drizzling it slowly on the mixture as you whisk. Once the sauce has thickened and doubled in size remove from heat and season with salt.

Serve with Eggs Benedict, Fish or vegetables.

Controversy has surrounded around which sauce is the real 5th mother sauce. Some claim it’s the vinaigrette sauce while others say it’s the tomato sauce. I have included both recipes below.

Vinaigrette

  • Red or white wine vinegar – ¼ cup
  • Extra virgin olive oil – ¾ cup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the vinegar with the salt and pepper.

Add the olive oil by allowing it to drip slowly into the seasoned vinegar mixture while you continue whisking.

Once the vinegar and oil has been completely mixed together (emulsified) it is ready to be served.

 *Vinaigrette sauce goes great with green salads.

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 onion – diced
  • 4 garlic cloves – sliced
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – 6 tablespoons
  • Thyme – (fresh use 4 tablespoons, dry use 2 teaspoons)
  • ½ carrot – shredded
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans of tomatoes – blended until the tomatoes are slightly chunky.
  • Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and lightly fry the diced onion and sliced garlic in it till just cooked through.

Add the thyme and shredded carrot to this and cook stirring occasionally for a few minutes. Then add the blended tomatoes.

When sauce begins to boil lower the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until it becomes thick stirring occasionally.

Tips for making a great sauce 

  • use a whisk, blender or food processor when mixing liquid ingredients. 
  • Stir the sauce constantly while on fire to avoid lumps.
  • Cook sauces which has eggs added to it on low heat or over a double boiler as this will prevent the eggs from curdling. 

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