French cookbooks like Larousse and Escoffier literally lists hundreds of sauces. To grasp a whole tome full of quirky names can be a tad intimidating but thankfully, this extensive list was consolidated to just five, which forms the foundation for many other sauces in French cuisine and hence the term "mother" sauce, while its variations “daughter” sauces.
Just with these 5 sauces, you can easily concoct a myriad of others just by adding spices, herbs and other ingredients.
Simply put, a sauce is flavoured liquid plus thickening agent. By varying the combination of liquid, flavouring and thickening agent, the possibilities are endless.
Master the making of Roux ("roo"), a principal thickening agent, and you will have a whole bunch of French sauces at your fingertips as it is usually what you would start out making before transforming them into a rainbow of sauces. As seen below, Roux is used in 3 of the 5 mother sauces: Béchamel, Espagnole and Velouté. Heating equal parts in weight of flour and fat (usually butter) will produce white (5 mins), blond (20 mins) or brown (35 mins) Roux. The darker the Roux, the nuttier the flavour.
Emulsifying is another great skill to crack. Technically it means adding two liquids that do not usually mix, like oil and milk, here it involves gradually adding fat to mainly, whisked egg yolks.
#1. Béchamel ("bay-sha-mel"). Commonly known as White Sauce.
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