French cooking is often about perfection. Great skills, high quality ingredients and a layering of the basics until you have a great dish. One of the building blocks of the cuisine are the five “mother” sauces. If you can master these five sauces, and a handful of variations, you are well on your way to being able to tackle a large amount of the traditional French dishes. The sauces are:
- Bechamel – Made with flour, milk and butter. Some additional spices, like nutmeg are added. This sauce is the basis for many white sauces.
- Veloute – Take a white stock (like chicken) and thicken it with a roux (butter and flour) and cook it down. A great basic sauce for roasted meats it also is the starting point for more complex sauces.
- Espagnole – This sauce is made with a brown stock, a roux, tomato puree and aromatic vegetables. This hearty and rich sauce stands on its own or can be made into the delicious demi-glace.
- Hollandaise – This sauce is made with clarified butter and egg yolks. You can use regular butter (as below) but clarified butter elevates the fat content and richness of the sauce. Bernaise is made by adding additional flavor to hollandaise.
- Tomato sauce – The classic sauce is made from sautéed vegetables and meat that simmer for long periods of time.
This was my first attempt at Hollandaise sauce. I thought it turned out well.
The key is the whisking. You have to keep going and going or you’ll lose the sauce and it will separate. I was reluctant to stop to take this picture.
Keep the sauce warm as you whisk. A great way is to put a metal bowl over hot water.
This thick, velvety sauce was perfect for some white asparagus.
Prep Time: 0 hours 10 minutes | Cook Time: 0 hours 10 minutes | Makes: 1 cup
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
- Pinch cayenne
- Pinch salt
Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) 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 use for the eggs benedict or other purpose. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.