The (mother) sauces that every cook should know

16-12-2020 in Ingredients Techniques
The (mother) sauces that every cook should know

If you have spent more than a few weeks at a culinary school, you couldn’t ignore it: the classic sauces schedule, as prepared at the end of the 19th century by the French chef Escoffier. But is it still relevant today? Are those sauces still the kitchen's only really important sauces?

The "Big Five" of the sauce world

An essential basic technique in the classic kitchen, is the preparation of roux, which is directly the basis of 4 of the 5 classic basic sauces. Bechamel, velouté, tomato and Espagnole are thickened with a white or brown roux. The fifth sauce is of course Hollandaise and it contains egg for binding.

With these mother sauces, you can make about 30 well-known "daughter sauces". You can still find some of those descendants being used in classic French kitchens, but most have pretty much disappeared from the gastronomic scene. Every cook should at least know these "big five" sauces, but by today's standards, they are very heavy on the calories!

Sauces after the nouvelle cuisine

That some sauces are very heavy, was also thought by many prominent French chefs around the 1970’s, and the nouvelle cuisine they founded brought the necessary relief in the kitchen. Heavy roux-bound sauces, such as the aforementioned Espagnole and Bechamel, made way for lighter sauces based on reduced stock, wine and vegetable juices. 

The beurre blanc is perhaps the most famous sauce to have emerged from this and it is immensely popular to this day. Check out the original and the many possible variants at Gastronomixs. The main brown sauce, the Espagnole, was made without roux and what was left was a reduced brown stock. This is now the basis of many sauces, including the popular red wine sauce.

What about mayonnaise?

Mayonnaise is definitely one of the most important sauces because it can create endless variations. It is, unlike all other sauces, a cold sauce of oil and vinegar with egg yolk as an emulsifier. That is why mayonnaise is often not mentioned in the list of mother sauces, but it certainly belongs in the list, so here it is now.

The new world sauces

Of course, the basis of many contemporary sauces in Western cuisine still lies with the classics of Escoffier and its forerunners. But chefs increasingly travelled around the world and inspiration quickly flows back and forth between different food cultures. That brought a lot of new sauces to our kitchen, which has been a real enrichment. Perhaps not in its pure, original composition, but as "fusion" with the classic base. There are hundreds of classic sauces in the world, but we have compiled the 20 most interesting for you here.

Top 20 sauces every chef should know

1. Béchamel sauce: classic but indispensable in lasagna, moussaka and a number of vegetable preparations.
2. Velouté: the history of this sauce goes back to 1651, consisting of a light stock bound with a roux.
3. Tomato sauce: nowadays, often without the roux and the basis for countless subsequent preparations.
4. Hollandaise sauce: never left and the basis of many variants.
5. Espagnole: an outdated sauce but part of it, the demi-glace, is still very much alive.
6. Mayonnaise: an emulsion of egg yolks, mustard, vinegar and oil and the foundation among other famous sauces such as tartar sauce, remoulade sauce and cocktail sauce.
7. Beurre blanc: a typical throwback to the nouvelle cuisine period and surprisingly current.
8. Bearnaise sauce: the most famous variation on Hollandaise sauce.
9. Chili sauce: a sweet and sour sauce from the Chinese and East Asian cuisine that consists of sugar, vinegar and red peppers. 
10. Chimichurri: Argentina's famous sauce of green herbs, garlic, vinegar and oil that is served with grilled meat.
11. Ponzu: This Japanese sauce consists of a mixture of mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes, kombu and citrus. Often bought ready-made, but super easy to make yourself.
12. Sofrito: an essential base of tomato, garlic and olive oil that is used in all kinds of varieties in Spanish, Italian, Greek and South American cuisine.
13. Tzaziki / Cacik: Greek and Turkish cuisine cannot do without and you see the yoghurt sauce in all kinds of forms in the gastronomy.
14. Pesto Genovese: this one is everywhere on the menu, but unfortunately often comes from a jar. A shame, because it is very easy to make and the result is great.
15. Mole Poblano: There are all kinds of Mole but outside of Mexico we usually mean Mole Poblano. The sauce can consist of 40 ingredients, including various peppers, spices and chocolate.
16. Teriyaki: Made up of two Japanese words, "Teri" meaning shine and "yaki" meaning baking. The sauce is therefore used to apply a glossy layer or lacquer to a baked product.
17. XO sauce: This sauce comes from Hong Kong and is made with dried seafood. This gives the sauce a strong taste with a lot of umami.
18. Ragu Bolognese: What is often referred to as Bolognese sauce is actually called "Ragu Bolognese" and is one of the most widespread recipes in Italian cuisine.
19. Hoi Sin sauce: a sweet sauce made from soy, vinegar, garlic and red pepper and indispensable with Peking duck.
20. Romesco: this Catalan sauce of peppers, paprika, garlic, almonds, vinegar and olive oil is very tasty with fish, grilled vegetables and meat, but also as a dip for raw vegetables.

Do you miss a sauce?!

In the coming period we will ensure that sauces, that are not yet on Gastronomixs, will be added. Do you now think: " I miss one that should not be missing"? Just let us know and we will add it to our wish list. Curious about all the sauces on Gastronomixs? You can view them all by clicking on the button below.

View all sauces