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Mother sauces!

I'm giving myself a challenge: cook each of the mother sauces for a week, once a day. I'm skipping espagnol because veal, otherwise it's bechamel, then hollandaise, tomato and veloute. Tomato is easy, but for the others, to my knowledge I've never eaten food that uses them.

So I need suggestions for simple dishes I can make with each sauce. This will be a lunchtime project, since one shouldn't spoil dinner with a failed experiment, so I'm looking for as light as possible. A friend suggested croque monsieur and mac and cheese for the bechamel, and those fit fine.

The idea behind this is that cooks learn through repetition, but it's hard at home to cook the same thing day after day (if you expect anyone to keep eating). I'm trying to devise a way to combine repetition with variety.

And if anyone else wants to play along, I'd be glad of company. Bechamel starts Sunday!

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    1. Bechamel- cream chipped beef. Of course add cheese and it'll be a Mornay sauce and you can make mac n cheese.
      Hollandaise- filet mignon, vegetables, eggs.
      Veloute-make a soup, such as asparagus.

      1. Your remark about the espagnole sauce is a bit cryptic, but I am assuming you do not want to encourage the raising of veal by using veal bones for the stock, due to the much-publicized cruelty involved. Just use or make regular beef stock and proceed with the espagnole sauce in the usual fashion. It will come out fine.

        2 Replies
        1. re: gfr1111

          No one in my family grew up eating veal, so we just don't. If I did cook it no one would eat it. And the ugly way it's produced has given me even more reason not to explore. But if a beef espagnole is acceptable I might give it a week as well.

          1. re: ennuisans

            free-range veal exists.

            hollandaise is the sauce for eggs benedict, or any version thereof, like florentine, or poached eggs and smoked salmon.

            what goes under the velouté will depend upon your base. i like a shellfish base over shrimp. (it's really not much different than a bechamel, so once you get that, you'll have little trouble with the other.)

        2. any gravy is basically a bechamel...with meat drippings or meat added...
          biscuits and gravy.....wet fries...turkey gravy...meatloaf with gravy....
          add cheese u get mac and cheese...or any cheese for cheese sauce...on pasta...
          yorkshire pudding (or popovers here in the USA) with gravy...

          i do hollandaise when i do aspargus wrapped with prosciutto...
          or eggs benedict ....

          those are just off the top of my head....

          11 Replies
          1. re: srsone

            I'm not sure that is actually true. The mother sauces in true french cooking are very specific.

            While almost any gravy may use a roux, they are definitely not béchamel (which is milk/cream thickened with a roux - period). There are any number of gravies that don't require any dairy.

            You could easily just thicken a stock with a roux (say chicken stock) add some herbs and pour that over a piece of chicken (though that would be a veloute I think).

            I love this idea though - I'll have to think about that.

            1. re: thimes

              srone is wrong about the bechamel, which is milk and roux. With meat drippings or stock, it's a veloiute.

              1. re: monavano

                Seems like if you consider a roux to be only made of butter and flour then gravy would not count. But if you broaden it to fat + flour, then milk gravy made from meat fat isn't far off the bechamel mark. Then again when I make milk gravy I don't scald the milk first, so they're more like kissing cousins.

                1. re: ennuisans

                  Right! It is fat and flour, which would make your sauce kind of a cross between a veloute, but more of a bechamel.

                  1. re: ennuisans

                    Agreed that a gravy made from roux (using animal fat + flour) and milk is very close to a bechamel.

                    I guess I was just making that point that the statement "any gravy is basically a bechamel" is not really accurate since many things that people consider "gravy" (I guess this may be a geographic thing too) do not require the milk - in which case they aren't anything like bechamel. If I took the juice that came out of a roasted bird, added roux to thicken, and poured that over the bird - I would call that gravy but it doesn't have any dairy.

                    Now that I am typing that - a new thread that could get people all worked up (similar to the "fried chicken - pan or deep fried" thread that I read . . . . Does gravy have to have dairy in it to be considered gravy. Maybe without dairy it is just sauce . . . . not to me but I'm only one person . . .

                    1. re: thimes

                      I never thought of gravy having to contain milk. You've got chicken gravy which I make with a roux or beurre manie.
                      And, you have your Italian "gravy" ;-)

                      1. re: thimes

                        Well there's brown gravy, which I don't think has dairy. Just flour and beef drippings as far as I know. And I consider some sauces at Chinese restaurants to be gravy even though many use corn starch as a thickener rather than flour. But I suppose, since I'm from the Ozarks, when someone says gravy I immediately think milk unless there's a qualifier to it. (And even here it's not always milk, but maybe leftover potato water. Poor but resourceful, that's us.)

                        1. re: thimes

                          Italian Americans commonly call their tomato sauce gravy.

                          1. re: paulj

                            yes...i have the sopranos recipe for "sunday gravy"

                            1. re: paulj

                              sicilian-americans call it that.

                              i am italian-american and it was always sauce for us.

                      2. re: thimes

                        yea i know....i was typing in a hurry before i left work......and edit expired
                        i meant to say any gravy is a roux add milk to get a bechamel...so i was close....

                        does just roux count as sauce???

                        and i was thinking how could you never not have eaten anything that has one of those basics ever...

                        i was all homer on the way home....DOHHHHHHHH!!

                    2. Veloute is the base for these
                      * Sauce Vin Blanc: By adding white wine and heavy cream to fish velouté.
                      * Albufera Sauce: Addition of meat glaze glace de viande.
                      * Allemande sauce By adding a few drops of lemon juice, egg yolks, and cream
                      * Bercy: Shallots, white wine, lemon juice and parsley added to a fish velouté
                      * Poulette: Mushrooms finished with chopped parsley and lemon juice
                      * Aurora: Tomato purée
                      * Hungarian: Onion, paprika, white wine
                      * Sauce ravigote: the addition of a little lemon or white wine vinegar creates a lightly acidic velouté that is traditionally flavored with onions and shallots, and more recently with mustard.
                      * Normandy: Mushroom cooking liquid and oyster liquid or fish fumet added to fish velouté, finished with a liaison of egg yolks and cream
                      * Suprême sauce By adding a reduction of mushroom liquor (produced in cooking) and cream to a chicken velouté
                      * Venetian sauce: Tarragon, shallots, chervil

                      1. i could do eggs benedict every day for a week!!!

                        crab
                        smoked turkey and avocado
                        bacon avocado and tomato
                        brisket hash

                        must.
                        have.
                        eggs.
                        benedict.

                        :)

                        this is a great idea! i would love to see you post your escapades and if it is REALLY yummy, your recipes!

                        good luck!

                        1. Bechamel and veloute are variations on a roux thickened sauce, one using dairy, the other a meat stock. Espagnol is, in a sense, a similar sauce using beef stock. There's more to the class espagnol than that, that's a starting point. Tomato is thickened with vegetable puree. You could cook other vegetables till soft and puree them. Hollandaise is butterfat and water (or the 20% of butter that is water) that is emulsified with egg yolk.

                          If you've ever had 'creamed peas' or other 'creamed items' you have had have a bechamel. If you've had chicken or turkey gravy, you have had a veloute.

                          1. Another way to learn sauces to is to focus on various ways of thickening a sauce:
                            e.g.
                            a roux
                            a starch slurry (and learn the effects of different starches - corn, arrowroot, wondra)
                            pureed vegetables
                            nuts and seeds
                            bread and cracker crumbs
                            emulsions

                            1 Reply
                            1. Well I'm starting a couple of days late, but this morning was attempt #1 using Batali's recipe from the Food Network site. I think I overcooked the roux somewhat; it was a bit thin to begin with and suddenly went from golden and pretty to frothy. Even with that question, there's still a strong taste of flour in the final product as well as butter. Not sure if successful.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ennuisans

                                How long did you cook the sauce after it thickened?

                                1. re: paulj

                                  The roux I stirred about 5 minutes (the recipe said 6-7) until it suddenly became foamy and that worried me. Then I poured in the scalded milk, brought it to a light boil and stirred for ten minutes. It thicked considerably after it cooled, as it turned out, and the flavors blended much better. I ended up boiling some red potatoes and pouring the sauce over which was tasty enough. If I have time later I'm going to attempt to "cream" radish tops with the remainder.

                                  The recipe called for 5 T butter and 4 T flour and the roux stayed liquid the whole time, which seems wrong to me. I was expecting the roux to firm up like a paste as it cooked.

                                  1. re: ennuisans

                                    The consistency of the roux should not change much during cooking, just its color. Your recipe uses a higher fat proportion than I generally do, but that shouldn't be a problem. The fat (liquid) the runnier the roux.

                                    The thickening occurs after adding the liquid (milk), as the flour absorbs water and gelatinizes. Longer cooking at this stage should thicken the sauce, mainly because of evaporation. Conversely you can thin the sauce by adding more milk. It is easier to add liquid than to evaporate it, so I start with a lower amount and add as needed.

                                    The trick with flavor is adding just the right amount of salt - so I do a lot of tasting.

                                    1. re: ennuisans

                                      As far as I know -- and the master chef who taught me how to cook knew way back then -- "roux" is equal parts of fat and flour combined over heat for a lenth of time that is determined by what you are using it for. "Roux" is basically a simple "buerre manie" that is cooked. In a buerre manie, fat (traditionally butter) is combined with flour in equal parts, then added to boiling/simmering liquids as a thickener. The result is that you thicken the liquid you are adding it and totally avoid any lumps OR that uncooked flour taste. Something magic about combining flour with fat before adding liquid. In a roux, it can be kept as light in color as a buerre manie, or it can be cooked to a roasty toasty nut brown, as it is for many Creole/N'awleans/Cajun dishes.

                                      In Mother Sauces, it's traditional to make a light roux first, then add hot milk for a bechamel. Don't tell anyone I told you, but you can also just bring some milk to a boil and add buerre manie and stir until thickened, and it's a LOT less hassle! But I doubt you'll find this secret in any cookbooks. '-)

                                2. LOL! Well, I'm only a year late to the party, but... Do NOT waste your béchamel on mac and cheese for lunch! Buy some eggplant and find a recipe for traditional Greek or Turkish moussaka. Classic bechamel is the traditional thick final layer of a moussaka before it goes into the oven. Have a GREAT dinner...!

                                  And for the record, even though it's traditionally included in the list of "Mother Sauces" (http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/sauc...), in reality Hollandaise is simply a mayonnaise made with drawn butter instead of oil. Really easy. Really fattening. Really good!

                                  A little info about sauce espagnole/brown sauce, demi-glace, veal, and all that jazz. First off, do NOT waste your money trying to make a classic veal stock of any sort (such as was available as late as the middle of the last century) in today's USA market BECAUSE anything you buy as USDA "veal" is what traditionally was sold as "baby beef." True veal comes from an unweaned calf, has never tasted a blade of grass, and the flesh is a very pale pink bordering on white. The last time I remember being able to buy REAL veal was in the 1960s! So if you can't get classic ingredients, how in the world can you expect to make a classic sauce? The world we live in. <sigh>

                                  But you CAN make an excellent espagnole/brown sauce, or even better, a GREAT demi-glace by making your own using four to ten pounds of marrow bones, knuckle bones and oxtails, depending on how much stock you want to end up with, roast them in the oven on a bed of mirapoise until the bones are browned, pour the whole lot into a HUGE stock pot (well, make the stock pot proportional to the amount of bones you're using), fill with water to a fw inches from the top, bring to a boil and skim the scum, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer for a day or so (at least 8 hours!) and strain very well with several layers of cheese cloth or with a fine mesh chinoise. (Toss the veggies, but you can re-roast the bones again for a lighter stock.) This is a basic espagnole or brown sauce. But *IF * you want to make a wonderful demi-glace, when you're roasting the bones, open the oven and paint the bones with a coating of rich exceptional quality tomato paste for the final ten to fifteen minutes of roasting and proceed s above. The tomato paste will deepen the color and add a depth of flavor to the final demi-glace that is classic. Then add a generous splash of Madeira to the stock and boil down until you only have a cup or two of deeply concentrated stock left. Taste and season with salt to taste. DO NOT SALT THE BONES OR STOCK at any previous point because the objective here is to deeply concentrate the flavors, and if you salt earlier you may well end up with a demi-glace that is beyond saving because of its saltiness. MOST modern recipes call for a roux in a demi-glace, but if you go back far enough in culinary history, Careme used NO roux. but only the natural gelatins of the bones for thickening, and he was famous for his Demi Glace! Many of today's most renowned chefs are said to be returning to the Careme method.

                                  It is NOT a lot of actual "work" to make an espagnole/brown sauce or a demi-glace, but it does take a LOT of time. Days to do it properly. But hey, if you have more time than money, ain't nothing wrong with making your own! Check the price for a couple of ounces of top quality demi glace. Ouch! This method will get you a pint or more, depending on how many bones you roast to start with. Enjoy!!!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Thanks, Caroline! Gosh, hard to believe this conversation was from a year ago. Sad to say I didn't get very far at all into my project, but perhaps I'll take another look at it.

                                    One thing I did take away was a new daring with gravy. I'll make a roast with vegetables once a week or two, and the last few times I've checked the fridge for leftovers to work in. Shredded cheese worked well, and leftover carrot soup wasn't bad either. It may not sound like much to experienced cooks but for thrifty home cooking it's a whole new world to explore.

                                    1. re: ennuisans

                                      You have a great thing going for you. You're curious and willing to try. Keep it up and you're gonna end up being a GREAT cook...! Trying new things and figuring out what works for you is one of life's great adventures. Enjoy!

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Here's what works for me, and I do it at least once a week. Let's call it "Sharuf's Mother Sauce".

                                        Take a cup of buttermilk, and mix in 1T cornstarch or 2T Wondra. Dump this into the pan you cooked your chops, chicken or whatever in. Cook until thickened. Add herbs of your choice if it seems appropriate -- works with curry, or paprika, or dill frinstance.

                                        You can also saute onion or mushrooms and make a nice sauce without any meaty essence.

                                      2. re: ennuisans

                                        If you search for Paul Prudhomme's turducken recipe online, you'll find he has an interesting base for gravies. If memory serves, it's roasted eggplant, sweet potato, garlic, onion, maybe bell pepper, and seasonings. This gets pureed with some stock, and then the deglazed pan drippings go in. Several years ago I made up a batch of this base and froze it in small amounts to use in making all sorts of gravy. No other thickening is needed, and dairy is optional.

                                    2. If you don't already have it, by all means get James Peterson's "Sauces". He talks about alternate ways to make both the brown and white sauces.

                                      For the brown sauces, I've settled on the demi-glace method, using beef bones for the original stock, and thickened at the end with a small amount of arrowroot paste.

                                      Demi-glace freezes well -- I use the really small Mason jars, not filled to the top to allow expansion.