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What is a Mother Sauce?

Sauces play an important part of all cuisine. Sauces originally came about to mask the unpleasantness of food back when refrigeration was nonexistent. But today sauces have a much more "happy" place on our plate, adding flavor to dishes, moisture to drier foods, and nutrients.

Sometimes referred to as a grand sauce, the mother sauce is simply the basic sauce that provides the foundation for a number of different types of sauces. Although there is an endless array of sauces, there are only five "Mother" sauces.

  • The Béchamel sauce is also referred to as a basic white sauce. This sauce is great for making cheese-based sauces.
  • The Velouté sauce is a white sauce using stock and is great sauce for meat.
  • The Espagnole sauce is a brown sauce. This sauce is widely used in cajun/creole cooking.
  • Hollandaise is a sauce made with an emulsion of egg yolks and fat. It is generally used with vegetables, fish and egg dishes, such as the classic Eggs Benedict.
  • The Tomato sauce is a great sauce to make in large volume. It freezes well and can be used on various dishes.

A sauce which is derived from one of the mother sauces is sometimes called a small sauce, or secondary sauce. Most sauces commonly used in classical cuisine are small sauces, or derivatives of one of the above mentioned mother sauces.

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