The Five Mother Sauces

Published on June 2, 2022

The Ecole hotelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland is the number one hospitality university. “EHL is the world’s first hotel school, founded in 1893 as Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. In 2022, for the fourth year in a row, EHL was ranked the world’s best hotel management school by QS World University Rankings for Hospitality and Leisure Management.” The online articles in the culinary arts section of their website keeps everyone up-to-date on everything foodie.

The world of cooking has become extraordinary and included in this are thousands of free videos online that will teach you how to develop recipes like a chef. For over a decade Chef Todd Mohr has been part of the producing of these videos that teach how to cook creatively. In other words, building up to not being dependent on recipes and having the ability to create your own successful dishes because you have learned the basics.

There are basics for cooking and basic for baking. Paul Hollywood has demonstrated his advanced baking abilities in videos. He no longer needs to measure as he makes dough for bread. Give him a new bread ingredient and he will make a perfect loaf with it. Experienced bakers know the ingredients and the specific ratios of the ingredients for the different kinds of breads and desserts. They have also learned the correct methods. There’s also the developing of the feel for things in terms of being too wet or dry. They’ve learned too much one way or the other in every way. They did their work and passed through the learning curve and developed the muscle memory and came out with a gift for others to enjoy.

Through videos online, chef’s are explaining how to get to this place. Chef Todd teaches how to use knives, and when a skillet is hot and when it’s too hot, and among a number of cooking methods that are used in cooking, he teaches the basic methods of making sauces as part of the foundational culinary training. He says, “All cooking come down to repeatable methods.”

“The five mother sauces, which come from French cuisine, were codified by chef Marie Antoine-Carême as the backbone of all other sauces in the early twentieth century.”
EHL Insights

A dark roux, a roux that you cook until it turns very brown, is the beginning of making one of the 5 mother sauces called espagnole sauce. “When the roux has finished cooking, browned mirepoix — which is a mixture of diced celery, carrot, and onion — pureed tomato, and beef or veal stock are added. Like the other mother sauces, espagnole starts with a roux. In this case, the flour paste is cooked until the flour browns. It’s important that cooks stir the roux while it browns so the paste does not scorch.” Espagnole, or dark brown sauce, is one of Carême’s original mother sauces. It “gives that signature richness to boeuf bourguignon, lamb, duck, veal, and other hearty dishes. Espagnole is the basis for demi-glace {one part espagnole sauce and one part brown stock reduced down by half with sherry wine added}, sauce Robert {brown mustard sauce}, and bordelaise {beef stock and red wine} sauce.”

The other four mother sauces which are béchamel (white sauce), tomato sauce, velouté sauce and hollandaise sauce. As you start to look beyond recipes to the basics, you will see that these sauces are the beginning of all sauces. For example béchamel sauce becomes mornay sauce when you add cheese for dishes like macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes and moussaka or add mustard to it for a sauce for chicken cordon bleu. A layer of béchamel sauce is added to lasagna to make it creamy. With a few additions tomato sauce can be turned into the rancheros sauce for enchiladas rancheros. Velouté sauce has cream or milk added to it for chicken la king and chicken pot pie. I added velouté sauce to a tortilla casserole to make it creamier. If you are gluten sensitive or don’t use canned soups, velouté sauce, which can be made with rice flour, can be used in place of canned cream of chicken soup in chicken tetrazzini and other recipes that call for canned soups. Hollandaise, an emulsion of eggs and butter, becomes béarnaise when you add the tarragon reduction. Mayonnaise is an emulsion of eggs and oil. A mixture of béchamel, hollandaise and heavy cream becomes a wonderful sauce for crêpes.

Chefs are encouraged to start with the basics of what makes a sauce but then think outside the box to create new recipes. The rich wine sauce in Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon is a bordelaise sauce with bacon, based on espagnole sauce. Her coq au van is a hybrid bordelaise espagnole sauce. Rather than a browned roux, it is thickened with a flour and soft butter mixture called beurre manié that is added later. My son Craig came up with a wine and mint jelly sauce for lamb that can be thickened at the end with a slurry (a mixture of cornstarch and water most often used for Chinese stir fry sauces). For a lovely sauce for Swedish meatballs, you start with a roux, add beef broth, which makes a gravy, but then you add heavy cream, and flavor it with Worcestershire sauce and mustard.

Mother sauces are made of two components: a liquid, like broth, milk, melted butter and wine, and a thicker, like flour, tomato and eggs.

With the basic knowledge of the 5 mother sauces you are on your way to cooking creatively like a chef.

Wikipedia has outlined the history of the categorizing of French mother sauces and lists the daughter sauces that have been derived from the mother sauces.

In this video Chef Todd shows how to make a gourmet Mexican chicken breast with black beans dish using a mother sauce method. He does not give you a recipe. He tells you what the ingredients are and shows you the methods for making it. I made it using the amounts below. Follow the video for the instructions to put it together.

Mise en place:
1. Pound the thicker part of three small chicken breasts so that they are even.
2. Cut up a small onion and add 1 teaspoon minced garlic.
3. In a small dish measure 3/4 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro, 1 pinch white pepper and one pinch applewood smoked salt.
4. 1 14.5 ounce can Swanson’s chicken broth
5. 1/4 cup Pace Picante Sauce
6. 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
7. two limes
8. Mexican cheese (In the video he mentions manchego and a 7 year cheddar. I used Queso Fresco.)

Chef Todd didn’t serve it with rice and it’s great without it but I decided to made white rice to catch all the sauce.