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The Five Mother Sauces

12/07/2013 04:58PM ● By Ryan Frisch
Sauce Béchamel

A milk-based sauce thickened with a white roux and flavored with onion pique and a pinch of nutmeg

  • 2 oz unsalted butter
  • 2 oz flour
  • 1 qt milk
  • ½ peeled onion studded with cloves; bay leaf (onion pique -- the bay leaf is attached to the onion by a clove.)

1. Measure out the butter, flour, and milk. (Note: There is quite a lot of room for adjustment in the quantity of milk. For a very thick, sticky béchamel, use about 3½ cups. For a much looser, more liquid sauce, use 4½ cups or even more to get the consistency you want.)

2. Warm the milk in a separate saucepan with the onion pique and set aside.

3. Place the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and melt it completely, but do not let it brown. Add the flour and stir it quickly into the butter.

4. Cook and stir the flour and butter mixture over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes until it reaches the consistency of wet sand and smells like cookie dough. Do not let it brown or darken; we are creating a pale roux, where the flour has been just barely cooked. Pour in a few tablespoons of the hot milk, just enough to moisten the flour and butter mixture. Stir thoroughly to loosen up the thick flour mixture.

5. Now use a whisk to gradually add the rest of the milk to the loosened flour mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Simmer gently and stir occasionally for 30 to 45 minutes, being careful not to scorch the sauce.

6. Adjust the seasoning with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg, and thin the sauce with milk if it’s too thick.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.


Sauce Espagnole (brown sauce)

A brown, fortified veal stock sauce
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 cups brown stock
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ lb mirepoix (½ cup onion, ¼ cup celery, ¼ cup carrot, all finely diced)
  • Bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, and bay leaf tied together)

1. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, then add flour. Mix well and cook to desired color, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This may take some minutes. It should be well browned but not burned. You will notice the color change from yellow to tan to nut brown.

Note: At this point, the famous French Chef Auguste Escoffier chilled his roux to be used at a later date. He then tempered the rue with a little stock before adding it back in and continuing with making the stock.

2. To continue with the recipe without chilling the roux, slowly ladle in the stock, a little at a time,  whisking to keep lumps from forming. Add all the stock and whisk until smooth. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Then add the mirepoix and bouquet garni.

3.Partially cover and simmer on low for 2 to 3 hours. Check to see if it needs skimming periodically.

4. If the sauce thickens too much, thin with a little more stock. The sauce should lightly coat the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Strain the stock through a sieve to remove the vegetables and herbs.


Sauce Velouté

A white stock-based sauce, thickened with a roux or a liaison, a mixture of egg yolks and cream

  • 8 oz butter
  • 9 oz flour
  • 5 qts white veal stock, at room temperature (use Basic White Stock)
  • ¼ lb button mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch white pepper

1. First make a blond roux: over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, until it’s a pale golden color. Adjust butter or flour if necessary.

2. Combine 4 quarts of stock and the roux, and whisk together until there are no lumps. Add mushrooms, salt, and white pepper. Whisk to combine and then simmer on low heat for one and a half hours. Scoop off any scum that surfaces. Add some water to keep the sauce from getting too thick if necessary.

3. Strain through cheesecloth into another saucepan. Add the remaining stock and allow the sauce to cool. It should thicken a little as it cools.


Sauce Hollandaise

An emulsion of egg yolk, butter, and lemon or vinegar

  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp mignonette pepper (crushed very fine)
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 5 Tbsp water divided
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 lb clarified butter
  • Drop of lemon juice

1. Put the salt, mignonette pepper, vinegar, and water in a small saucepan and reduce by three-quarters. Move the saucepan to double boiler and add 1 Tbsp cold water and the yolks. Beat with a whisk until the yolks thicken and have a consistency between heavy cream and mayonnaise. Then remove the pot and gradually pour the butter on the yolks while briskly stirring the sauce.

2. When the butter is absorbed, the sauce ought to be thick and firm. It is brought to the correct consistency with a little water, which also lightens it slightly, but the addition of water is optional. The sauce is completed by a drop of lemon juice and rubbed through a fine-mesh sieve.


Tomato Sauce

Tomato based (about 2 quarts)

  • 2 oz salt pork, diced
  • 2 cups onions, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 qt veal or chicken stock
  • Bouquet garni*
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste

*For the bouquet garni:

  • 1 bay leaf½ tsp dried thyme
  • 3–4 fresh parsley stems
  • 8–10 black peppercorns, crushed

       Tie the ingredients into a cheesecloth sack using a piece of kitchen twine.

1. Preheat oven to 300° .

2. In a heavy, oven-safe Dutch oven, render the salt pork over low heat until the fat liquefies. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent but not brown. Add the tomatoes, ham bone, stock, and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer the pot to the oven. Simmer in the oven, partially covered, for two hours.

3. Remove from oven. Remove bouquet garni and ham bone, and purée sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Season to taste with Kosher salt and a small amount of sugar—just enough to cut the acid of the tomatoes. Serve hot. If not serving the sauce right away, keep it covered and warm until you’re ready to use it.

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