Have you ever heard of the mother sauces? Today I'm going to walk you through the basics -- just in time for your holiday party!
Chef Escoffier was the founder of classic French cuisine. One of his principles in sauce making is that there are five mother sauces, from which all other sauces are made. They are...
- Brown sauce (made from roasted bones and roux)
- Velouté (a chicken or fish broth thickened with corn starch)
- Béchamel (a heavy cream sauce made with milk and roux)
- Tomato Sauce (tomato paste is roasted with bones and it is thickened with roux)
- Hollandaise Sauce (an emulsion made with egg yolks and clarified butter)
The theory behind the mother sauces is that you don't need to follow an endless number of recipes to make all the sauces you need. Instead, you can learn these five and then create variations accordingly. Sauce Perigoux is a brown sauce with truffles while Sauce Chasseur is a hunter's sauce made from tomato sauce and mushrooms. Sauce Bearnaise is a Hollandaise with the addition of a tarragon reduction.
The mother sauces are taught in many high-end culinary schools, such as my alma matter, the Culinary Institute of America. I remember making them in the basic skills class. I would still consider them to be necessary for any aspiring culinarian, but I no longer think that these five sauces are the basis of home cooking.
After 20 years of recipe development, I have developed my own list of 7 essential healthful sauces that are easy to prepare, low in fat, and very delicious. They are...
- Salsa or pico de gallo
- Chutney or any baked/poached/grilled fruit
- Roasted marinara sauce or roasted vegetable puree
- Pan sauce (made in a pan, can also include gravy)
- Cream sauce
- Pesto or herb rubs
These are critical if you want to create healthful meals that taste great. They're a fun way to maximize flavor for many different dishes. Here are recipes for three of my favorites. If you want the recipes for all seven sauces, you might just have to pick up a copy of Home Run Cooking, my guide to amazingly healthful home-cooked meals. In the meantime, here are three to tide you over...
4 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
4 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon raisins
Pinch ground ginger
Combine ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Keep covered; stir occasionally. Add more water if necessary. Once apples get soft enough to mash with a fork, mash them thoroughly and then serve warm.
Pico De Gallo
4 ripe tomatoes, cored, halved, seeds removed, and diced
1 jalapeño or poblano pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup green onion, sliced thin
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp chopped cilantro
Fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, adding lemon or lime juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Fresh Roasted Marinara Sauce
4 large, ripe tomatoes, cored, halved, and seeded
1/2 onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, halved
1/2 red or green bell pepper, cored
1/4 cup fresh basil
Preheat your oven broiler. Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, and bell pepper skin side up on a flat cookie tray. Roast under the broiler until skins turn very brown and blister – about 10 minutes. Place all vegetables into your food processor or blender. Add fresh basil and puree until smooth.
Want more healthful recipes complete with photos and nutrition analysis? Check out our new book:
PLUS we have a new set of tools for people who do cooking demos - see all items in our store
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.