FORECAST - Followers of Rural East-Central Alabama Storm Trackers

Friday, October 1

The Mother Of Sauces

I'm sure that, if you've been cooking for very long (or watch Food Network), you've heard of the "Mother Sauce".  What seems to come as a surprise to many is the fact that there are actually FIVE mother sauces, and they ALL come from France.  Yup...the French REALLY know how to cook!!

According to Culinary Cooking School Institute (my source for this information), the development of various sauces over the years stems from the 19th-century French chef Antonin Carême who evolved an intricate methodology by which hundreds of sauces were classified under one of five "mother sauces." Those basic sauces are the white sauce Béchamel, the light stock-based Velouté, the brown stock-based Espagnole; the two basic emulsified sauces, Hollandaise and Mayonnaise; and the oil and vinegar-based Vinaigrette

Tomato is considered to be among the 5 mother sauces, however, it actually came about later, although it certainly has earned the title, since it is the base for a large variety of sauces in today's cookery.  However, since Tomato sauces are so varied, I will address them in a separate post entirely. 

Today, we will explore ALL five sauces, including some of their variations.  With them, you will be able to create some truly magnificent dishes, and your family will clamor for more!! 


This most basic sauce in cookery is based on a roux, which is equal volumes of butter and flour. To make the sauce, a liquid (milk, cream, or stock) is added and, in just a few minutes, the liquid thickens up nicely.

Here's the recipe:

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk or cream
salt and white pepper to taste

In a small saucepot, melt the butter, then add the flour.  Using a whisk, blend thoroughly until it's a smooth runny paste-like consistency.  Gradually add the milk/cream, continuing to whisk constantly, until completely blended (this prevents lumps).  Bring to a soft boil, then reduce the temp to low, and simmer, stirring often, until thickened (to make a thin sauce, half the butter/ make real thick, add an extra tbsp of butter and flour).  Remember, it will thicken more as it cools.  Makes about 1 cup of sauce.


  • Cheese Sauce - once made, add 1/2 cup shredded cheese, and stir constantly until cheese is completely melted and blended

  • Herbed Sauce - add 1 tsp freshly chopped herbs or 1/2 tsp dried herbs just after you put in the milk/cream.  Allow to cook an extra minute or so to bring the flavor out.

  • Onion Sauce - saute 2 full slices of onion in the butter for 2-3 minutes, remove the onion, then add flour.  Follow rest of recipe

  • Mustard Sauce - add 1/2 tsp of dry ground mustard to the flour, then make according to recipe.  This is particularly good on chicken and fish dishes.

Velouté is made using chicken, veal, or fish broth/stock.  It's typically a thinner sauce, since the ratio of liquid to the butter/flour is higher.

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups chicken, veal, or fish broth/stock
salt to taste (again, stock is saltier, so adjust accordingly)
pepper to taste (if you want the sauce white, use white pepper)

Preparation is almost identical to bechamel.  The only difference is the cooking need to slow boil Velouté for at least 5 minutes longer to make it thicken.  Makes about 2 cups.


  • Bercy - Cook 1 cup dry white wine and 2 minced shallots in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until reduced in volume by 3/4. Add 1 quart fish velouté, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately.  Makes about 4 cups.

  • Supreme Sauce - Pour 1 quart chicken or veal velouté in a 2-quart saucepan and simmer over low heat until reduced in volume by 1/4. Place 1 cup heavy cream in a bowl and temper by slowly incorporating about a 1/2 cup of the velouté into the cream. Slowly stir the cream mixture into the sauce, and return to a very low simmer. Add 8 tablespoons butter, 1 at a time, into the sauce while stirring constantly. Add 1 teaspoon, or to taste, lemon juice. Adjust seasonings, as needed. Strain the sauce through cheesecloth or a fine strainer and serve immediately.  Makes about 2 cups.

Ok, this sauce is a LOT trickier!!  For this one, you'll need to make a "sachet" of herbs.  It's worth all the work, though...the taste is unbelievable!!  Instructions for the sachet are included.

1/2 bay leaf
2 parsley stems, no leaves
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 clove garlic
1 piece of cheesecloth, cut into a 6-inch square
1 piece of butcher's twine, cut 12-inches long

1 small onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1 stalk celery
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons additional butter
6 cups beef stock or bouillon, room temperature
2 ounces tomato purée
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

TO MAKE SACHET - Place the bay leaf, parsley stems, thyme, and garlic in the square of cheesecloth. Gather up the corners and twist together. Using just 1 end of the string, tie the sachet closed. The other end of the string, the long end, will be suspended from the handle of the saucepan. Set aside until ready to use.

Cut the onion, carrot, and celery into medium, 1/2-inch, dice. Set aside. Mince garlic.  Heat the 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan until hot. Whisk in the flour to a paste consistency, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 to 6 minutes until mixture (roux) bubbles, turns light brown in color and has a nutty aroma. This is called a dark roux. Set aside.

Place the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy, 4-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté the vegetables, stirring often, for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until well browned. Add the minced garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the cooked roux to the vegetables, stirring to combine. Gradually, pour in the brown stock and then the tomato purée. Tie the pre-made sachet to one handle of the stockpot, letting it dangle in the liquid.  Bring to a boil, skimming off any impurities from the surface, as needed. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to about 1 quart.

Untie sachet. Then pour sauce and the sachet into a fine strainer or china cap lined with cheesecloth. Use a ladle or spoon to gently press any remaining vegetables through the strainer. Discard the sachet.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.  Set over a double boiler filled with warm water until ready to serve. Or cool completely, then cover and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. The sauce may also be frozen for up to 3 months (to freeze, use an old fashioned ice cube tray.  Freeze, then place the cubes in a zippy bag until needed).  Makes about 1 quart.

WHEW...alot of work, huh?  But, since it can be frozen, you can make it once and use what you need of it when you're ready.


  • Bordelaise Sauce - Place 1 cup red wine, 2 minced shallots, 1/4 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns, a pinch of thyme, and 1/2 bay leaf in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat. Cook for about 33 minutes or until reduced by three-fourths. Add 1 quart Espagnole and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and strain through a lined strainer or cheesecloth. Cut 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and drop them, 1 at a time, into the sauce while stirring constantly to combine.  Serve immediately.  Makes about 4 cups

  • Madiera Sauce - Place 1 quart Espagnole in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes until reduced by 1/2 cup. Add 1/4 cup Madeira wine, stirring to combine. Serve immediately.  Makes about 4 cups

  • Mushroom Sauce - Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy sauté pan over moderate heat. Add 1 minced shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms and continue sautéing until brown. Add 1 quart Espagnole and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon dry sherry and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Serve immediately.  Makes about 4 cups

Since both of these sauces are based upon the emulsifying (slow blending) of eggs and some type of oil, they are grouped together.  I'll give you each recipe separately, along with it's variations, so there's less confusion.


4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
Vigorously whisk, or beat with an electric mixer, the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thickened. Place the bowl over a saucepan or barely simmering water (or use a double boiler - do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or pan). Continue to whisk rapidly, being careful not to let the mixture get too hot or the eggs will scramble.  SLOWLY drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt. Serve warm.  Makes about 1 cup

Variations on Hollandaise:

  • Bearnaise Sauce - Stir in 1 tablespoon dry white wine with the lemon juice. After sauce thickens, stir in 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, and 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried chervil leaves.

  • Maltaise Sauce - After the sauce thickens, stir in 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel and 2 tablespoons orange juice.

  • Mousseline Sauce - Prepare Hollandaise Sauce and cool to room temperature. Just before serving, beat 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form and fold into the cooled sauce.

1 large egg or 2 egg yolks*
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or white vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
Salt, to taste
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably canola

Blend all the ingredients, except the oil, in a blender until smooth. With the machine running, add the oil very slowly in a slow steady stream, until the mixture is well combined and thickened.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, as desired. Store in the refrigerator in a container with a tight-fitting lid for 3 to 4 days.  Makes 1 cup
NOTE - Homemade mayonnaise will NOT be as thick as commercially-made mayonnaise.


  • Garlic (also called Aioli) - Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic, roasted for an additional flavor boost, with the first group of ingredients.

  • Herbed Mayo - Stir 1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, watercress, basil, oregano, or tarragon, into the completed mayonnaise.

The final of the five, vinaigrette is made of a simple blend of oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. More elaborate variations can include any combination of spices, herbs, shallots, onions, mustard, etc. It is generally used to dress salad greens and other cold vegetable, meat, or fish dishes.

1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add olive oil in a small, slow stream to vinegar mixture and whisk until the mixture emulsifies. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Makes 1 cup


  • Mustard - Add 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard to the vinegar and stir before adding the oil.

  • Honey Mustard - Add 2 teaspoons honey and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard to the vinegar and stir before adding the oil.

  • Herb Spiced - Add any combination of 1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as finely chopped shallots, onion, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, watercress, basil, oregano, or tarragon to the vinegar and stir before adding the oil.

  • Tomato Basil - In a blender, combine 3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese along with the vinegar, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. While blender is running, add the oil in a slow stream until mixture is emulsified. Adjust seasoning to taste.
There you have it folks...the longest post I've EVER made, and a complete listing of ALL of the mother sauces.  ENJOY!!!


Global Tastes & Travels Inc. said...

Hate to contradict you, but vinaigrette is not a Mother Sauce.
In fact, in culinary school, they gave us an acronym to remember the sauces- BETH V (Beth the Fifth).
Bechamel, Espagnole, Tomato, Hollandaise and Veloute.

The reason they are called mother sauces is that most sauces (if not all), in some way, are all variations of one of these five; not vinaigrette which would not make a very homogenous sauce as oil and vinegar separate.

Karen Wingo said...

Not to argue, but my source for the information is from the following:

This is what they say concerning Tomato sauces...

"Tomato is considered to be among the 5 mother sauces, however, it actually came about later...although it certainly has earned the title since it is the base for a large variety of sauces in today's cookery."

According to Steve Holzinger, author of "About Vinaigrette and Mayonnaise: The Mother of Cold Sauces", he says...

"Vinaigrette Sauce and Mayonnaise Sauce are the two basic cold sauces, the warm ones being Bechamel, Venoute, and Espagnole. They are called mother sauces, because other sauces are derived from them, by addition or combination. Oil and Vinegar is the original salad dressing, in the proportion of three parts oil to one part of vinegar, with seasoning."

After having checked a little more, I do see why you state that tomato is one of the mother sauces, but since a tomato-based sauce has not been used for longer than 2 centuries, and the others have been written about for over 4, I will have to stand with my post for now.

Besides, tomato sauce can actually stand for it's own post, because it's so versatile!!