Two nights, 20 sauces. This was the task at hand as I stepped into the kitchen for my very first two-session recreational class at ICE, Mother Sauces and Their Offspring. While the “offspring” part is just a little word play, The Mother Sauces, also called The Grand Sauces, are truly the matriarchs of the condiment world.
These five sauces (Classic Tomato, Sauce Espagnole, Sauce Hollandaise, Sauce Veloute and Sauce Bechamel) while substantial in their own right, are the backbone of almost any other sauce you’ll find on the menus of New York’s finest dining establishments. The concept is that if you can make these well, then you can make huge batches and season them differently to create a wide variety of sauce options.
With an open mind (and an empty stomach), I dove right in and have collected the following tasty tidbits:
* Roux: Almost all of these sauces begin with a roux, which is a mixture of clarified butter and flour that you heat in a sauce pan until it becomes the consistency of wet sand. The longer you cook it the darker it gets, and each sauce asked for different shades of roux.
* Mire Poix: The three staple vegetables of most western sauces are onions, carrots and celery. These need to sweat together to become tender and to provide the most flavor possible. One of the best ways to do this is to add salt, which extracts the moisture.
* The Perks of Clarified Butter: whole butter, as we get it from the grocery store, consists of water, butterfat and milk solids. It’s the milk solids that cause butter to burn relatively quickly. By “clarifying” the butter (removing these solids) you can use the butter at much higher temperatures without the fear of scorching.
* Holy Hollandaise: This is most likely the sauce with the most derivatives, and it’s certainly the quickest sauce to make. Despite its practicality, it requires your complete undivided attention (or else you’ll end up with scrambled eggs!). When re-heating hollandaise always used a double boiler – NEVER put it over direct heat. *TIP: add about 1 tablespoon of water per yolk to allow for really smooth saucing.