Preparing Classic Sauces
From the Roman cookery of Apicius sauces of one kind or another have been an integral art of European cookery. These evolved into the Middle ages, and from sources such as the Forme of Cury and its French and Italian equivalents we can see the development of modern cookery.
These developed into what the French term 'mother sauces' base sauces from which other sauces can be derived. Of course, one of the true base sauces is French Béchamel sauce, and the recipe below is derived from Mrs Beeton:
1 small bunch of parsley
1 small bunch of savoury herbs (tied together)
salt, to taste
1.2l white stock
1 tbsp arrowroot
Combine the stock, parsley, cloves, bayleaf, herbs and mushrooms in a pan. Season with salt (but do not add pepper) then bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes (or until the flavour has been drawn from the herbs) then strain and return the liquid to the pan.
Bring back to a boil and cook until the volume has reduced by half (about 20 minutes). Whisk the arrowroot into the cream until smooth then pour the mixture into a clean pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes over low heat.
Whisk the cream mixture into the stock mixture and simmer slowly for 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. This is a classic base sauce which can be thinned with milk to make a pouring sauce, if desired.
This can be converted into a range of other sauces, such as Aurore sauce (just add tomato purée).
Another classic base or mother sauce is Sauce Tournée, again from Mrs Beeton:
600ml white stock
1 tbsp butter mixed to a smooth paste with 1 tbsp plain flour (or white roux)
1 bunch of savoury herbs, tied together (must include parsley)
6 mushrooms, chopped
Combine the stock, herbs, onions and mushrooms in a pan. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 30 minutes. Now whisk in enough of the thickening to bring the mixture together as a sauce.
Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Skim the surface, strain and serve immediately.
This is a base sauce for Allemande Sauce, Mussel sauce and a range of others.
By learning to prepare a few basic sauces, you can give all your recipes a lift by using variants of those sauces to dress your dishes.
For many more sauce recipes (basic sauces and derivatives), visit the Celtnet Recipes for Sauces Home page where you will see hundreds of sauce recipes from across the globe.