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The 5 French Mother Sauces
This is roux whisked with milk or other dairy to make a white sauce. Ever made macaroni and cheese or chicken pot pie? The base of both these dishes is béchamel. By itself, béchamel is quite bland, which is why it is usually cooked with other ingredients and not used as a finishing sauce.
A velouté is a light roux whisked with chicken, turkey, fish or any other clear stock. The resulting sauce takes on the flavor of the stock, and the name is derived from the French word for velvet, which aptly describes this smooth but light and delicate sauce. It is usually served over fish or poultry that has been delicately cooked, like by poaching or steaming.
Sauce espagnole is a basic brown sauce. It’s made of brown beef or veal stock, tomato puree, and browned mirepoix, all thickened with a very dark brown roux. This sauce is sometimes used at the foundation for boeuf bourguinon and demi-glace.
- Sauce Tomat
This is made by cooking tomatoes down into a thick sauce but used to also be thickened with roux. Unlike more modern-day tomato sauces, the classic French tomato sauce is flavored with pork and aromatic vegetables.
This is the one mother sauce not thickened by a roux. Instead, it’s thickened by an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter, which means it’s a stable mixture of two things that usually normally can’t blend together. This is a very delicate sauce because the emulsion can easily break, and rich hollandaise is usually used as a dipping sauce for asparagus or a finishing sauce for dishes like eggs Benedict.
Bechamel (White Sauce or Roux)
Yield: about one cup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
- Freshly ground pepper
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.
- Cheese Sauce.
- Stir in 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- How hot should the milk be?
- Warm the milk on low heat just until little bubbles begin to form at the edges. Then remove from heat.
Since this recipe is simply broth thickened with roux, homemade stock yields the best results. If you don’t have the time to make your own, purchase stock from the market. Low or no sodium preferred. Substitute fish broth or clam juice for the chicken stock to serve with fish or seafood. If you prefer a sauce that has more body and flavor, just continue simmering it until it’s slightly thicker and reduced to about one cup.
- Yield: 1 1/3 cups (serving size: about 3 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour to pan, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently with a whisk. Gradually add chicken stock, stirring with a whisk until smooth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly thick, and stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
Sauce Epsagnole is one of the Five French Mother Sauces, and is the classical precursor to modern day sauces such as Demi-Glace. It goes great with any sort of roasted red meat, and is the base for many popular classic French Sauces including Sauce Robert and Sauce Bordelaise, (see below).
Before we get into how to make Sauce Espagnole, first, a little clarification about Demi-Glace.
Classical demi glace is one part Brown Sauce (Espagnole) and one part Brown Stock (Such as Roasted Veal Stock), combined in a pot and reduced by half. However, modern day menus that list a “Demi-Glace” as their sauce are usually referring to a stock that has been reduced by at least half, or until it coats the back of a spoon. The gelatin contained in the stock itself is what thickens the sauce. No other thickening agent such as roux is used.
Modern chefs prefer “full reduction” sauces over a classical demi-glace because they have a much more intense flavor, and the classical thickening agent of a roux makes the sauce heavy and effects its taste.
Recipe For Classical Sauce Espagnole (Brown Sauce)
- Mirepoix: 4 oz/112g onions, 2 oz/56g celery, 2 oz/56g carrots
- 2 oz/56g butter
- 2 oz/56g flour
- 2 oz/56g Tomato Puree
- Sachet Containing: 1/2 Bay Leaf, 2-3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme, 2-3 Sprigs Parsley
- 1.5-2 qts/1.5-2L Roasted Veal Stock
- Start by roasting your mirepoix over medium heat, in the bottom of a heavy bottom sauce pot with the butter, until the mirepoix turns a nice golden brown.
- Once your mirepoix has browned, add in your tomato puree and continue roasting for 2-3 more minutes.
- Sprinkle in your flour, and cook until the flour is well incorporated into the other ingredients (about 5 more minutes).
- Add your roasted veal stock and sachet.
- Bring to a simmer, and gently simmer for about 2 hours, reducing the entire sauce down to 1qt/L. If necessary, add more stock if too much evaporates during the cooking process. Skim sauce as needed.
- Tip: While simmering your sauce, pull it half way off the burner, so that all the scum will collect on one side of the pot, making it easier to skim.
- Once your sauce is finished cooking, pass it through a fine chinois a couple of times to insure a smooth, consistent texture.
ENJOY!!! HAPPY COOKING!
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