Happy Mother’s Day! Celebrate the special mother figure in your life by pairing your favorite organic grass fed beef, pasture raised chicken and wild caught fish with a delicious Mother Sauce!
You can’t go wrong with learning one of these classic recipes. Mother sauces are the starting point for making various derivative sauces and they are called mother sauces because each one is like the head of its own unique family of sauces.
In the early 20th century, Auguste Escoffier in his classic Le Guide Culinaire and its abridged English translation A Guide to Modern Cookery, documented the contemporary five “mother sauces”: Béchamel sauce; Espagnole sauce; Hollandaise sauce; Tomato sauce; and Velouté sauce.
In this series of posts on sauces, we’ll go through each of the mother sauces, how they’re made in the classic style, and how to make paleo and gluten free versions of them, if they are not already so.
Béchamel is traditionally made by melting a quantity of butter, and adding an equal part of flour in order to make a roux, which is cooked under gentle heat while stirring with a whisk. As it is a white sauce, care needs to be taken not to brown the roux. Then heated milk is gradually whisked in, and the sauce is cooked until thickened and smooth. The proportion of roux and milk determines the thickness of the sauce, typically one to three tablespoons each of flour and butter per cup of milk. One tablespoon each of butter and flour per cup of milk would result in a thin, easily pourable sauce. Two tablespoons of each would result in a medium thick sauce. Three tablespoons of each would be used for an extra thick sauce such as used to fill croquettes or as a soufflé base. Salt and white pepper are added and it is customary to add a pinch of nutmeg.
Béchamel sauce is the base for a number of other classic sauces with additional ingredients added including:
- Mornay sauce – cheese
- Nantua sauce – crayfish
- Cream sauce – cream
- Mustard sauce – mustard
- Soubise sauce – finely diced onion
- Cheddar cheese sauce – cheddar and anchovy paste
Paleo and Gluten Free Béchamel: To make a paleo and gluten free version of béchamel, replace the butter with ghee (clarified butter), replace the flour with tapioca flour, and replace the milk with almond milk or coconut milk.
- 1 TBSP ghee
- 1 TBSP tapioca flour
- 1 Cup of almond milk
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste
Hollandaise sauce is a rich and buttery sauce, with a slight tang added by an acidic component. It won’t overpower mildly flavored foods and pairs very well with eggs, vegetables, and fish. It is one of the Mother sauces in French cooking, so called because of the many derivative created by adding or changing ingredients.
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup clarified butter (ghee) melted
- Pinch cayenne
- Pinch salt
Whisk the egg yolks, a teaspoon of cold water and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to . If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.
The following is a list of some of the more common minor sauces derived from Hollandaise.
- Béarnaise Sauce is made with a strained reduction of vinegar, shallots, fresh tarragon and crushed peppercorns as a replacement for the lemon juice in Hollandaise. Béarnaise and its derivative sauces are often used on steak or other grilled meats and fish.
- Sauce Choron is a variation of Béarnaise without tarragon, plus added tomato purée.
- Sauce Foyot is Béarnaise with meat glaze added.
- Sauce Colbert is Sauce Foyot with the addition of reduced white wine.
- Sauce Café de Paris is Béarnaise with curry powder added.
- Sauce Paloise is a version of Béarnaise with mint substituted for tarragon.
- Sauce Bavaroise is Hollandaise with added cream, horseradish, and thyme.
- Sauce Crème Fleurette is Hollandaise with crème fraîche added.
- Sauce Girondine, is Hollandaise with Dijon mustard.
- Sauce Maltaise is Hollandaise to which blanched orange zest and the juice of blood orange is added.
- Sauce Mousseline, is made by folding whipped cream into Hollandaise.
Most of these sauces are Paleo friendly and all are gluten free. I guarantee that they will bring life to your eating pleasures, so experiment and enjoy.
Espagnole is made by thickening brown stock with roux (similar to making a velouté). The difference is that espagnole is made with tomato purée and mirepoix for richer color and flavor. Also, brown stock itself is made from bones that have first been roasted to add color and flavor.
Espagnole is traditionally further refined to produce a rich, deeply flavorful sauce called a demi-glace. This demi-glace is the starting point for making various derivative sauces. A demi-glace consists of a mixture of half espagnole, half brown stock, which is then reduced by half.
For a short-cut, you could skip the demi-glace step and make the derivative sauces directly from the espagnole. You’ll lose some flavor and body, but you’ll save time.
- 1 cup onions, diced
- ½ cup carrots, diced
- ½ cup celery, diced
- 2 oz clarified butter
- 2 oz all-purpose flour (paleo & GF substitute tapioca flour)
- 6 cups brown stock
- ¼ cup tomato purée
Bouquet Garni packet (detailed instructions here)
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 3-4 fresh parsley stems
- a dried leek
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it bubbles.
Add the mirepoix and sauté for a few minutes until it’s lightly browned. Stir the flour into the mirepoix a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated and forms a thick paste (roux). Lower the heat and cook the roux for another few minutes, until it’s light brown.
Using a wire whisk, slowly add the stock and tomato purée to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it’s free of lumps.
Bring to a boil, lower heat, add the sachet and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about one-third, stirring frequently. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.
Remove the sauce from the heat and retrieve the sachet. For a smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.
Velouté sauce is made by thickening white stock with roux and then simmering. Chicken velouté, made with chicken stock, is the most common, but veal velouté and fish velouté are also delicious.
Each of the veloutés forms the basis of its own respective secondary mother sauce. For example, chicken velouté with cream becomes the Suprême Sauce. Veal velouté thickened with a liaison of egg yolks and cream becomes the Allemende Sauce. And fish velouté plus white wine and heavy cream becomes White Wine Sauce.
We’ll be posting more about mother sauces and their derivatives on our blog! You can see how to make a mushroom sauce here.
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 oz clarified butter
- 2 oz all-purpose flour (Paleo & GF version: substitute Tapioca Flour)
Heat the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.
Meanwhile, in a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the clarified butter over a medium heat until it bubbles.
With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter, until it is fully incorporated, and is a pale-yellow paste. This paste is called a roux. Heat the roux for another few minutes or so, until it has turned a light blond color.
Using a wire whisk, slowly add the hot chicken stock to the roux, whisking briskly.
Simmer for 30 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about one-third, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn’t scorch at the bottom of the pan. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.
The resulting sauce should be smooth and velvety. If it’s too thick, whisk in a bit more hot stock until it’s just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the sauce from the heat. For a very smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.