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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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?