Monday, August 15, 2011

Candi & Julia: The Mother Sauces

When I was a kid I wanted to be a chef.  Mind you this was way before The Food Network and before choosing a career in the culinary industry was as popular as it is today.  While other kids were watching cartoons on Saturday morning, I was watching Julia Child on public television.  I wanted to be a chef.  I wanted my own cooking show just like her.  I continued to cook, all through my childhood and eventually it became time to make a career choice.  Again, this was before culinary school commercials were running every 10 minutes.  Not having a clue about seeking out a real career in the culinary industry I went onto college and other endeavors. 

I've never stopped in my quest for culinary information though, and even considered culinary school long after college.  But now I'm older.  I'm tired.  My feet hurt.  I know what the people in that industry go through to feed us.  My brother-in-law is a real chef.  And a darned good one.  I know how hard he works, and how straining it is both physically and mentally for very little reward, other than the personal satisfaction of doing something you love.  While I may not invest in culinary school, there's nothing stopping me from reading everything food related I can get my hands on, attending every cooking class I can find, and watching every cooking show on television.  Just because I'm not a professional, doesn't mean I can't learn to cook like one. 
My copies of Julia Child's books...They're worn from lots of use!
One of the fundamentals of cooking is sauces.  Sauces in French cuisine date back to the Middle Ages.  They remain a defining characteristic of French cooking even today.  In the 19th Century, Chef Antonin Careme classified sauces into four types known as "Mother Sauces."

Bechamel based on mlik, thickened with a white roux
Espagnole based on brown stock (usually veal), thickened with a brown roux
Veloute based on a white stock, thickened with a blonde roux
Allemande based on a veloute sauce, thickened with egg yolks and heavy cream

In the early 20th century, the 4 mother sauces were updated by Chef Auguste Escoffier, and classified as 5 Mother Sauces:

Bechamel milk based sauce, thickened with a white roux
Veloute white stock based sauce, thickened with a roux
Tomate tomato based sauce thicknened with a rous
Espagnole roasted veal stock based sauce thickened with a brown roux
Hollandaise egg yolk and butter based sauce thickened with emulsion

It all sounds fancy and complicated but if you've ever made macaroni and cheese from scratch, and thickened the milk or cream with flour, then you actually made a Bechamel sauce.  Hollandaise is the sauce usually served with Eggs Benedict.

There are all kinds of sauces in the world, many more than these 5.  Most of the sauces as we know them are derived from one of the Mother Sauces.  A sauce that is a derivative of a Mother Sauce is sometimes called a "small sauce" or "secondary sauce."  Mayonnaise is a good example of a sauce derived from the Hollandaise family as it is an emulsion. 

While you may not have known of the 5 Mother Sauces, chances are you've had some form of them!

"Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking."--Julia Child

The dedication written inside one of my Julia books...

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