Preface to the Mother Sauces and Gravies
Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise,
Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. You
may also consider Beurre Blanc a base or mother sauce, although the French do
not. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different
ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.
The Hollandaise sauce family is probably the most widely recognized and used sauce of the classic French sauces. It is simply an emulsion of butter and lemon juice using egg yolks as the emulsifying agent, usually seasoned with salt and a little black pepper or cayenne pepper. Although it is notoriously difficult to make and hold well, it tastes very rich and buttery, with a mild tanginess added by the lemon juice and seasonings if made properly.
It must be made and served
warm, never hot. Additionally, if the
ingredients are not mixed properly, or if they are kept too cold or too hot,
they will separate resulting in an oily mess filled with particles of egg yolk.
Be sure that you have all of your ingredients measured and at hand before starting the sauce, as this goes very quickly! If this is your first time, try this video by the Culinary Institute of America.
Yield: 2 cups
1/2 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
1/4 cup white wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup water, or as needed
4 large fresh egg yolks
1 1/2 cups melted whole butter, unsalted
2 teaspoons lemon juice, or as needed
2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
Pinch ground white pepper
Pinch cayenne (optional)
Method: The safest way to make this recipe without scorching problems is to use a double boiler: 1) add about 1/2" of water to bottom of a double boiler, making sure the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not touch the top mixing bowl; 2) bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer; 3) set the mixing bowl on the top of the double boiler, and place the egg yolks and water into the bowl.
Combine the peppercorns and vinegar in a small pan and reduce over medium heat until nearly dry, about 5 minutes. Add the water to the vinegar reduction. Strain this liquid into a stainless steel bowl.
Add the egg yolks to the vinegar reduction and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook the egg yolk/vinegar mixture until the yolks triple in volume and fall in ribbons from the whisk. Remove the bowl from the simmering water and place it on a clean kitchen towel to keep the bowl from slipping.
Gradually ladle the warm butter into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. If the sauce becomes too thick and the butter is not blending in easily, add a little water to thin the egg mixture enough to whisk in the remaining butter. Season the Hollandaise with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne if desired. Serve immediately or keep the sauce warm in a bowl over simmering water.
Note: if sauce starts to thicken too quickly, remove from heat and sit
the top of the double boiler into another pan with cold water to stop the
cooking process, then continue with recipe.
Melt the butter and keep it warm. Heat lemon juice until just warmed. Have small saucepan with boiling water and a measuring tablespoon ready. Place the top of a double boiler over (not in) hot water. (This means the bottom of the top of the double boiler sound not make contact with the water heating in the bottom half of the double boiler.)
Sauce Mousseline (also known as Sauce Chantilly): Whipped cream folded in to Hollandaise.
Sauce Aux Capres: Add drained capers
Sauce Bearnaise: Replace lemon in recipe with a reduction of vinegar, shallots, and fresh chervil and/or tarragon, strained.
Sauce Maltaise: Orange zest (blanched) and 1/4 cup juice per pint of Hollandaise.. Use a blood orange for authenticity.
Sauce Divine: Reduced sherry folded into whipped cream.
Sauce Noisette: Hollandaise made with browned butter (Beurre Noisette).
Sauce Bavaroise: Cream, horseradish, thyme.
Sauce Foyot: Add meat glaze (Glace de Viande) to Bearnaise; also known as Sauce Valoise.
Sauce Colbert: Sauce Foyot with addition of reduced white wine.
Sauce Paloise: Bearnaise, but substitute mint for tarragon (great with Lamb).
Sauce Creme Fleurette: Add Crème fraîche.
Sauce Choron: Foyot plus tomato purée.
is a huge difference between gravy and a sauce. Gravies are made in the
skillet or pan from the drippings of cooked meats, then thickened with flour,
cornstarch or arrowroot. Whereas sauces have to stand on their own, not
relying on the meat fat or meat tidbits for flavor, but the have to enhance the
meat, fish, vegetables whatever on their own. Sauces do thicken and have
body, but are not thick and heavy. Sauces can be bold, or subtle, but
always lighter in taste and calories than gravies.
Béchamel Sauce Family
family of sauces consist of flour thickened light cream sauces, that you might
be reminiscent of pan gravies, but the difference as with all classic French
sauces, they do not use pan drippings from meats, but rather stand on their own
individual character to enhance the food that it is to compliment.
1/8 lb. butter
4 T. Flour
2 c. cold milk
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
Melt the butter in a
heavy skillet over low heat, and stir in the flour. Stirring constantly
for 3 minutes, thus cooking the flour and eliminating a pasty taste. Do
not let flour brown, add the remaining ingredients, stirring constantly until
sauce thickens. Makes about 2 cups of sauce.
Variations I: All offspring recipes in this family are cooked in the 1/8 lb. butter from the parent recipe. Then additional ingredients are added to create the offspring sauce.
Albert Sauce - Simmer 2 minced shallots, 2 T. grated horseradish, and 1/2 t. dry mustard in the butter, and continue with the basic recipe. Add 1 T. of sherry and 1 T. vinegar, and then finish with a chunk of unsalted butter. Serve with light roasted meats.
Champignon Sauce - Sauté 1 c. small mushrooms in the butter, continue with basic recipe, stir in a blended mixture of 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk. Serve with eggs, fish and vegetables.
Duxelles Sauce - Sauté 2 minced onions in butter for 8 minutes, add 1 c. minced mushrooms and sauté another 5 minutes. Continue with basic recipe, stir in a blended mixture of 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk, and serve with poultry, eggs and vegetables.
Moutarde Sauce - Sauté 1 T. dry mustard in the butter and continue with the basic recipe. To finish, add 3 T. whipping cream. Serve with eggs, poultry and vegetables.
Soubise Sauce - Simmer over low
heat, 2 c. minced onions in the butter for 5 - 10 minutes until soft, then
add 1 t. confectioners sugar and continue with the basic recipe. Mash
through a fine sieve and finish with a chunk of unsalted butter and 2 T. crème
fraîche. Use for roasted white meats.
Variations II: Use the finished parent Béchamel Sauce recipe, then specific ingredients are added to complete the offspring sauces.
Aurore Sauce - Stir in 1/2 c. tomato purée and 2 T. sherry to parent recipe. Serve with eggs and vegetables.
Chantilly Sauce - Fold in 1 t. fresh lemon zest and 4 T. whipped cream into warm Béchamel sauce. Serve with eggs or vegetables.
Mornay Sauce - combine 2 egg yolks, 4 T. whipping cream, 4 T. grated parmesan cheese to the finished parent sauce. Heat sauce just enough to melt the cheese [do not boil], and serve with eggs or vegetables.
Quenelle Sauce - Stir in 1/4 c. crème
fraîche and 1 egg yolk blended mixture, 2 T. whipping cream, a chunk of
unsalted butter, and finish the sauce with 2 T. sherry and 2 drops red food
coloring. Add the cooked Quenelles, seafood or vegetables to the sauce and
heat gently and serve.
Sauce family is Béchamel sauce made with either chicken or fish stock
rather than milk. These sauces are interchangeable between the two
families -- in other words you can use either the Béchamel or Velouté
basic recipe for any of the sauces in these two families, opting for a milk or
1/8 lb. butter
4 T. Flour
2 c. chicken or fish stock
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
make Poultry Velouté Sauce use chicken stock, for Fish Velouté Sauce use fish
stock, and for Seafood Velouté use seafood stock. Prepare the recipes as
you would in the basic Béchamel Sauce Recipe above.
Bercy Sauce - in a small heavy saucepan, pour in 1/4 c. white dry wine, and 2 minced shallots and bring to a boil, reduce until liquid is gone. Stir in a basic recipe of Velouté sauce, add 1 T. fresh lemon juice and finish with a chunk of butter, and 1 T. minced parsley.
Champignon - in a small heavy saucepan, pour in 1/2 c. white dry wine, and 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms, bring to a boil, reduce until liquid is gone. Add 2 T. Cognac [you can use a brandy] and flambé. When the flame dies, add the recipe of Velouté sauce, heat, stir in a blended mixture of 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk to finish.
Ravigote - in a small heavy saucepan, pour in 1/4 c. white dry wine, and 2 T. vinegar, bring to a boil, and reduce until liquid is gone. Add the recipe of Velouté sauce, a chunk of butter and sprinkle sauce mixture with 1 T. chopped chives and 2 T. chopped French tarragon.