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.

Hollandaise Family

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  
Ingredients:  

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.  

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.)


Variations

There 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

This 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.  

Yield: 2 cups  
Ingredients:  

Method:

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.


Variations II: Use the finished parent Béchamel Sauce  recipe, then specific ingredients are added to complete the offspring sauces.

Velouté Sauces

The Velouté  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 stock base.  

Yield: 2 cups  
Ingredients:  

Method:

To 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.

Variations