Cooking Techniques: Understanding Mother Sauces

Understanding Mother Sauces

In the world of cooking, a sauce is a liquid or sometimes semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world. A cook who specializes in making sauces is a “saucier”.

Sauces may be ready made sauces, usually bought, such as soy sauce, or freshly prepared by the cook; such as béchamel sauce, which is generally made just before serving. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing.

Sauces were a major defining characteristic of French cuisine. In the 19th century, Chef Antonin Careme classified sauces into four families, each of which was based on a mother sauce.

  • Bechamel, based on milk, thickened with a white roux (it is explained as a mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces).
  • Espagnole, based on brown stock (usually veal), thickened with a brown roux.
  • Velouté, based on a white stock, thickened with a blonde roux.
  • Allemande, based on velouté sauce, is thickened with egg yolks and heavy cream.

In the early 20th century, Chef Auguste Escoffier updated the classification, adding new sauces such as tomato sauce, butter sauces and emulsified sauces such as Mayonnaise and Hollandaise.

Most sauces commonly used in classical cuisine are derivatives of one of the above mentioned mother sauces. Mother sauces are not commonly served as-is; instead they are augmented with additional ingredients to make derivative sauces. For example, Bechamel can be made into Mornay by the addition of Gruyère, and Espagnole becomes Bordelaise with the addition of reduced red wine and poached beef marrow.

British cuisine:

  • Gravy is a traditional sauce used on roast dinner, which comprises roast potatoes, roast meat, boiled vegetables and optional Yorkshire puddings.
  • Bread sauce, flavored with spices and thickened with dried bread.
  • Apple sauce and mint sauce are also used on meat (pork and lamb respectively).
  • Salad cream is sometimes used on salads.
  • Ketchup and brown sauce are used on more fast-food type dishes.
  • Strong English mustard (as well as French or American mustard) are also used on various foods, as is Worcestershire sauce.
  • Custard is a popular dessert sauce.

Italian sauces include white sauces such as alfredo and balsamella and red sauces such as siciliana, pescatore, napolitan, pizzaiola, amatriciana, arrabbiata, ragù, and pesto sauces mainly based on oil and garlic.

Salsas (“sauces” in Spanish) such as pico de gallo (salsa tricolor), salsa cocida, salsa verde, and salsa roja are a crucial part of Latino cuisines in the Americas and Europe. Typical ingredients include tomato, onion, and spices; thicker sauces often contain avocado. Mexican cuisine uses a sauce based on chocolate and chillies known as Mole.

In Japanese cuisine, typical sauces used are usually based on shōyu (soy sauce), miso or dashi. Ponzu, citrus-flavored soy sauce, and yakitori no tare, sweetened rich soy sauce, are examples of shoyu-based sauces. Miso-based sauces include gomamiso, miso with ground sesame, and amamiso, sweetened miso. (Note: in colloquial Japanese, the word “sauce” sometimes refers to Worcestershire sauce introduced in 19th century and largely arranged to Japanese tastes. Tonkatsu and yakisoba sauces are based on this sauce.)

Chinese cuisine is known for prepared sauces based on fermented soy beans (soy sauce, doubanjiang, hoisin sauce, sweet noodle sauce) as well as many others such as chili sauces and oyster sauce. One of the more distinctive (and popular) Chinese sauces is sweet and sour sauce.

Korean cuisine uses sauces such as doenjang, gochujang, samjang, and soy sauce.

Southeast Asian cuisines, such as Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, often use fish sauce, made from fermented fish.

Asian prepared sauces are not thick as they do not contain thickening agents such as flour. The thickening occurs in the last minutes of cooking when thickeners like corn starch are added.

Examples of sauces:

White sauces:

  • Mushroom sauce
  • Mornay sauce
  • Sauce Allemande
  • Sauce Américaine
  • Suprême sauce
  • Velouté
  • Yoghurt sauce

Brown sauces:

  • Bordelaise sauce
  • Bourguignonne sauce
  • Chateaubriand sauce
  • Charcutiere sauce
  • Demi glace sauce
  • Romesco sauce
  • Sauce Africaine
  • Sauce au Poivre
  • Sauce Robert
  • Poutine Sauce

Béchamel family:

  • Béchamel sauce
  • Mornay sauce

Emulsified sauces:

  • Aioli
  • Béarnaise sauce
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Remoulade
  • Tartar sauce
  • Salad cream

Butter sauces:

  • Beurre blanc
  • Café de Paris
  • Satay sauce or Peanut sauce
  • Meuniere sauce

Sweet sauces:

  • Butterscotch sauce
  • Chocolate or fudge sauce
  • Custard
  • Crème anglaise
  • Hard sauce — not liquid, but called a sauce nonetheless
  • Fruit sauces

Sauces made of chopped fresh ingredients:

  • Latin American Salsa cruda of various kinds
  • Romanian Mujdei
  • Onion sauce
  • Salsa verde
  • Pesto
  • Georgian Tkemali
  • Sauce gribiche
  • Sauce vierge

Hot sauces (Chile pepper-tinged sauces):

  • Buffalo Sauce
  • Datil Pepper Sauce
  • Chili sauce
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Zhug
  • Fra diavolo sauce

East Asian sauces:

Prepared sauces

  • Doubanjiang
  • Duck sauce
  • Sweet noodle sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Pad Thai sauce
  • Ponzu
  • Sichuan mala
  • Soy sauce
  • Sriracha
  • XO sauce

Cooked sauces

  • Lobster sauce
  • Sweet and sour sauce
  • Teriyaki – a way of cooking in Japan, a branch of sauces in North America.

Southeast Asian sauces:

  • Fish sauce or (Garum)
  • Sambal
  • Sriracha sauce

Other sauces:

  • Adjika
  • Andalusian sauce
  • Avgolemono
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Bread sauce
  • Chasseur
  • Chermoula
  • Chimichurri
  • Egusi sauce
  • Halvaytar
  • Harissa
  • HP sauce
  • Mahyawa
  • Mint sauce
  • Mole
  • Peppercorn sauce
  • Ravigote
  • Rarebit
  • Satzibeli
  • Steak sauce
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tzatziki
  • Wine sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce

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