Who’s Your Mama? Fall in Love with Mother Sauces

Who’s Your Mama? Fall in Love with Mother Sauces

This is the third post in my series of epic posts on sauce. So far, we’ve talked about the basic history of sauce, the basics of mother sauces, and now we’re about to talk about why you should even care about mother sauces.

No, scratch that. This is why you should LOVE mother sauces.

One – Versatility. As mentioned, once you master a mother sauce, it becomes simple to make dozens of other sauces simply.

Two – Parlez vous français? The French defined the classic mother sauces, and Julia Child (among countless others) value French cuisine as THE guideline for the kitchen. Cook like the masters by starting with the classic French mother sauces.

Three – Amp it up! Turn a boring chicken breast or fish fillet into a flavorful meal.

Four – Go green. Don’t throw any food away! Use the bits left behind in the pan, all the leftover grease, and the veggie trimmings to make great sauces.

Cold Sauces – Mayonnaise and Vinaigrette

Of all classic mother sauces, I particularly like making the cold sauces, because it’s so easy to add herbs and seasonings for a fresh, unique taste. I mean, is there anything better than a vinaigrette with paprika on a spinach salad? Or an herbed mayo for seafood dipping?

I say no, but that’s just one person’s opinion. I asked a few chefs to weigh in on the subject.

Demi-Glace and Velouté

Chef Amy Vitale of TABLES, an adorable Denver restaurant that serves fresh American dishes, said that demi-glace would have to be her most loved mother sauce.

mushroom marsala sauce for chicken breast “It is so versatile and can be enhanced with many flavors,” she said. “If made correctly, you can taste the time and love that is put into the final product.”

She’s not lying about time. A demi-glace requires a serious amount of reduction and straining. Chef Vitale said a proper demi takes around 36 hours to make. Her advice: Be patient.

Chef Dennis K. Littley, the chef at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, and blogger at More than a Mount Full, said he makes a velouté most often. He particularly enjoys the “silky texture that looks palatable.”

Chef Littley says to always start with a stock, and if you add dairy, do so at the end. He also says to use much less dairy than you think you’ll need. Maybe a couple of tablespoons of cream at the end if you want a smoother sauce.

Hollandaise and Béchamel

Speaking of dairy, Chef Matt Selby of Denver’s Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s rates béchamel among his favorites. He also likes hollandaise.

“Interestingly enough, I never made a béchamel or had practical use for hollandaise until we opened Steuben’s,” he said. “We use béchamel as a start for all of our gravies, macaroni and cheese sauce, and cheese steak sauce. Hollandaise is used on our brunch menu. Funny thing is that now I like to use the occasional hollandaise and béchamel on specials at Vesta.

bechamel sauce for moussaka

“I have two tips. One is to take your time, and prepare béchamel over low heat and hollandaise on and off of low heat. Move [the pan] back and forth on and off the heat for periods of time.

“The other tip is, and this is because I am a season to taste sort of guy, sprinkle in a little salt at the very beginning of making either sauce. Both are very fatty and it takes a while for salt to dissolve into the sauces once they are prepared. By adding some salt at the very beginning, you sort of give yourself a head start. That being said, it’s best to under salt to take into account the salt’s need to dissolve.”

Tomato Sauce

Chef Chuck Kerber of Pittsburgh Hot Plate said that of all the sauces, fresh tomato sauce gets his vote.

“There’s nothing better than a few vine-ripened, de-skinned and de-seeded tomatoes with fresh garlic and a spicy olive oil.  It goes with just about everything, not just pasta.  I plant tomatoes in my yard every year, so that I can enjoy this sauce!”

The real question is…what sauce can’t we enjoy? Saucy Dipper says they’re all worth loving.

The Mother Sauce Loving Recap

  • Learning to make the mother sauces means you can make hundreds of other sauces. They’re that versatile.
  • The French defined the classic mother sauces, which will amp up the flavor of any dish and help you use every last bit of food.
  • I like making mayonnaise and vinaigrette best, because they taste better than the store bought versions. It’s also super easy to add fresh herbs and seasonings.
  • Chefs Vitale and Littley both like the brown sauces best, and they both agree a quality sauce takes patience.
  • Chef Selby says to give béchamel and hollandaise a chance — just take your time and go easy on the heat.
  • Chef Kerber grows tomatoes just so he can make a fresh sauce. Remember, tomato sauce will go great with most anything, not just pasta.

This is just the beginning of a list of valuable sauce-making tips from the trade. In my next post, I’ll continue to talk to chefs about technique, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, what mother sauce do you love?

6 Responses to “Who’s Your Mama? Fall in Love with Mother Sauces”

  1. briarrose says:

    So many delicious sauces…I may have drooled…just a little though…I am a lady after all. 😉

  2. Hi Sara

    thanks so much for the mention! I alway s start my culinary classes with the mother sauces they are the basis for so much that we do in cooking!


  3. Claudia says:

    Great article! I am with you on the sauces – they add so much flavor and texture and appeal to dishes. Plus it’s like a private cooking lesson as you work on mastering them. The possibilities are endless with just a few sauces!

  4. sweetlife says:

    perfect tips, sauces add so much flavor and realy kick up a meal!!


  5. Velva says:

    Cheers to the Mother Sauces for they are the foundation of many a great meal. Thanks for reminding us and sharing with us the versatility of using these sauces.


  6. Another great post on sauces 🙂

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