Mother Sauces - Also called "Grand Sauces." These are the five most basic sauces that every cook should master. Antonin Careme, founding father of French "grande cuisine," came up with the methodology in the early 1900's by which hundreds of sauces would be categorized under five Mother Sauces, and there are infinite possibilities for variations, since the sauces are all based on a few basic formulas. Sauces are one of the fundamentals of cooking. Know the basics and you'll be able to prepare a multitude of recipes like a professional. Learn how to make the basic five sauces and their most common derivatives. The five Mother Sauces are:
Béchamel sauce (white) - White cream sauce made from a roux (a combination of flour and a fat). The old expression, "First you make a roux," indicates that you make the roux before adding anything else to it. A roux is an equal combination of butter and flour (normally one tablespoon of each), simmered over low heat until it bubbles; milk (one cup) is then added. The flour/butter roux thickens the milk, creating a rich sauce. To thicken the sauce to a medium consistency, use two tablespoons each of butter and flour per cup of milk; for an even thicker roux, use three tablespoons of each ingredient per cup of milk. Béchamel sauce is the base for such sauces as Mornay sauce, and it's the foundation for many savory soufflés. In Italy, béchamel sauce is known as balsamella.
Veloute sauce (blond) - Very similar to Béchamel sauce; although instead of adding milk to the roux, white chicken or veal stock (and sometimes fish fumet) is added. Velouté is often made even richer by adding egg yolks or cream.
Brown (demi-glace) or Espagnole sauce - Traditionally made from beef stock, aromatics, herbs and, sometimes, tomato paste. Brown sauce is the basis from which many other sauces are made. Brown sauce consists of a liquid thickened with a cooked mixture of butter and flour called a roux. The difference is that for a brown sauce, the roux is cooked much longer; it must be stirred over low heat until it acquires a nut-brown cast that intensifies the color and flavor of the sauce. This lengthier cooking diminishes the thickening power of the starch, a factor that should be taken into consideration before you start cooking. To make a brown sauce of medium thickness, allow two tablespoons of both butter and flour for each cup of liquid.
Hollandaise sauce (butter) - Uses butter and egg yolks as its liaisons. It is served hot with vegetables, fish, and eggs (like egg benedict). It will be a pale lemon color, opaque, but with a luster not appearing oily. The basic sauce and its variations should have a buttery-smooth texture, almost frothy, and an aroma of good butter. Making this emulsified sauce requires a good deal of practice — it is not for the faint of heart. Béarnaise sauce, which is "related" to hollandaise sauce, is most often served with steak.
Tomato sauce (red) - Prepared on a tomato product base with flavorings and seasonings, plus liquid added. The tomato sauce is slightly coarser than any other of the grand sauces because of the degree of texture that remains even after pureeing and straining tomatoes. The sauce will have a deep, rich tomato flavor.