The five mother sauces are hollandaise ( saucetomat ), tomato ( saucetomat ), Espagnole, Veloute and bechamel. Auguste Escoffier, a French chef, identified the five mother sauces and associated them with French cuisine. Mother sauces are still relevant to modern cooking techniques. Almost every sauce can be classified as an extension, reduction, or alteration to one of the mother sauces. Whether you want to become a chef or to improve your restaurant’s menu, you can learn the mother sauces and build your unique flavours.
What is a Mother Sauce?
A mother sauce is a base sauce that can make a wide range of derivative sauces. A derivative sauce adds flavours and ingredients to a mother-based sauce. Different sauces are also called daughter sauces or small sauces by chefs. French cuisine asserts that five main sauces can be used to create all the other sauces. Each mother sauce is unique in its liquid, thickening agent and distinctive flavourings. Three of the five mother sauces use roux for their thickening agents.
Hollandaise is a rich, lemon-flavoured mother sauce that combines buttercream and lemon. Although some mother sauces may be less well-known than their derivatives, hollandaise is the most popular of its sauce family members. Hollandaise sauce can be described as an emulsion, meaning its ingredients are not mixed naturally. Hollandaise, French for “Dutch sauce”, can be translated into English. Although the name may suggest otherwise, hollandaise can be described as a French-inspired sauce that hails from Normandy, a small town known for its butter and cream.
Tomato sauce (or tomato in French) is a tomato-based sauce that serves as one of five mother sauces. Tomatoes are high in water and have tender flesh. They can be cooked into thick sauces with no emulsification. Tomato sauce is a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine. Many secondary tomato sauces can be used for pasta and pizza. Auguste Escoffier did not specify a specific tomato variety in his publication. This allows for seasonal availability and flavour preferences.
Bechamel, the original cream sauce, is the basis for all cheese sauces. Bechamel, in its most basic form, is a mixture of white roux and milk. Bechamel sauces are traditionally made from milk and white roux. Balsamella was an Italian sauce that was used to make the bechamel. It was a popular dish at the French royal court under King Louis XIV, where it was renamed bechamel’ in honour of its chief steward. When Escoffier published his list of mother sauces, he standardized the name “bechamel”.
Espagnole is a thickened brown sauce made with mirepoix, tomatoes, and brown stock. Mirepoix is a French aromatic flavour combination of onion, carrot, and celery that has been cooked in butter or oil on low heat to release their flavours. Espagnole is the most complex of mother sauces. Espagnole sauce is a strong flavour and can easily overwhelm your food. Espagnole sauce has become much more popular in its reduced derivatives.
Veloute sauce is a versatile white sauce made from a combination of a white roux and white stock. There are three types: chicken, fish, or veal veloute, depending on which white stock is used. Chicken veloute is the most popular. The most neutral of all five mother sauces, veloute allows you to layer many different flavours on top. Veloute sauce can be used as a base for many comfort foods, such as creamy soups and chicken dishes.
What is a Sauce?
The sauce is a mixture of liquid and thickening agents. Variation in the thickening agent can create sauces that are fluid, semi-solid or somewhere in between. Sauces can enhance other food’s texture, flavour, or aesthetic appeal. Sauces can be added to your food during cooking, after it is finished, or served on the side.
What is a Roux?
A roux, made of equal flour and fat, is a thickening agent. A roux can be used to thicken three of five mother sauces. Blend flour and melted butter on the stovetop to make a roux. The mixture should be cooked at 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until it reaches the desired browning level. It can be stopped or extended to make a white, blonde or brown roux.
History of Mother Sauces
Auguste Escoffier, a renowned chef, published the five mother sauces in 1921. All other sauces grow from these branches. The mother sauces weren’t always the way we know them today. Marie-Antoine Careme, a French chef, classified veloute (bechamel), allemande and Espagnole as foundational (mother-) sauces in the 1800s. Auguste Escoffier, the father of modern French cuisine, revolutionized French cuisine in the 19th century by modernizing haute cuisine and redefining mother sauces. Escoffier removed allemande from the list, identifying it as a derivative veloute. The five mother sauces we recognize today were strengthened by Escoffier’s addition of tomato sauce ( automat) to the list.