The Great Hall
Bury the Dead Mother Sauces The Great Hall: Bury the Dead Mother Sauces
By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 04:04 am: Edit

admittedly, escoffier is one of the most underrated food writers still in print. if you dismiss him, it's because you're not yet good enough to appreciate him. but his infamous "five mother sauces" have always irritated me. they're useful if you want to run your kitchen the way he ran his, and make your sauces the way he made his, but they don't explain much. they're flawed as a scheme, and confusing to novices. memorizing them will not teach you much about cooking.

~ what's espagnole? it's tomato sauce with more stock and less tomato.
~ what's tomato? it's espagnole with more tomato and less stock.
~ what's bechamel? it's veloute with milk instead of white stock.
~ what's veloute? it's bechamel with white stock instead of milk.
~ what's hollandaise? why, it's not a sauce at all. it's a bloody condiment. it's *mayonnaise*, for god's sake. it doesn't belong on the list, even under escoffier's own bizarre scheme.

so why not simplify this? why not categorize sauces according to the most essential cooking principles: according to the thickening method? this would give us three: 1. liaison (starch or protien); 2. emulsion; 3. reduction.

every sauce on the planet falls under one of those three categories, or involves a combination. there's no need for any "mother sauces." there are three "essential methods" from which every sauce in every national cuisine descends.

for example, a liaison could be a roux, or a slurry, or egg yolks, or gelatin, or pectin, etc. (i.e., starch or protien). the point is, by categorizing sauces according to method, they become easier to explain and teach, and easier to understand and learn. the five "mother sauces" are completely irrational. (perhaps that's how they got their name, lol)

any thoughts?

do you know of any books or articles in line with this rant?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 08:34 am: Edit

Santamuerte, any relation to Santaclaus???...or Santamaria?????
I think the sauces should be updated, not revamped completely, you are right in a way, I think there are more sauce bases or (mother) sauces today then in the past; for example the emulsions, many more variations today. How about coulis????
This is a subject that will have much discussion I think....too much to say in one post only!
Back to ponder the sauce priciples!

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 09:18 am: Edit

ok, you've got coulis, remulade, rouille, mayonnaise, hollandaise, bearnaise, etc. hell, they use vinaigrette as a sauce these days, and the celebrity chef frauds even boast about it, especially if they can work raspberries, roasted garlic, or chutney into it. but it's all based on emulsion. the most basic emulsion is a simple butter sauce -- i.e., pan juices mounted with butter. now that's a mother sauce, imho.

for liaisons, you're talking about 4 of escoffier's 5 mother sauces, the simplest of which is plain old gravy. but think about it: jam is another. see what i mean?

then there are reductions: a ragout, or a bolognese, or a cream sauce, or fond de veau, etc...

ok, fond de veau is a combo: a liaison with gelatin, plus a reduction. but you see what i mean. there are only three ways of making sauces. they can be combined, certainly, but there are only three basic methods.

teach the methods, then teach the hundreds of sauces they create;-)

forget the five mothers....

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 09:37 am: Edit

Hmm, interesting. They're called "mother sauces" because they bear children--that is derivatives, with the "mother" as the base. They were created--if I'm right,and understand correctly-- to streamline saucemaking. Rather than make dozens of dedicated sauces from scratch and watch them sit in the fridge untill they're used, the mothers are made and processed further into derivatives or special sauces when needed.

One of the best and intelligent books I've ever read on this subject is James Peterson's
"SAUCES" think it first came out in 1991

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 10:12 am: Edit

Ya'know, Santamuerte, you've got a good arguement there, you could classify sauces as either roux thickened, reduction, or coulis, but the thickener is only part of the sauce. A lot of skill is demanded with the liquid part.

How many times have I patiently explained how to make a simple clear chicken stock to a new cook and then watch as the carcasses boil furiously in a greasy cloudy stock into which the scum has been churned in? Or roasting veal bones? Bitter, black burned tomato paste, 6"chunks of carrots, burned shriveled fine diced onions, and pale bones swimming in fat, smoking and stinking up my oven?

So, yes maybe the sauces do need some modernizing. But it still takes skill make a decent sauce, and the respect and knowledge for ingredients and techniques will make simplifying their names not necessary. You wouldn't trust a newly minted "chef" to convert $50 or $60 worth of veal bones and ingredients into a respectable demi without first explaining to him how you want it done, and then watching him like a hawk.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 10:05 pm: Edit

This is the stuff that makes me glad I'm a Pastry Chef.
When I use sauces, its on the meat already.
Please pass the A-1

By Jonesg (Jonesg) on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 06:26 am: Edit

tHE techniques are universal, I haven't actually seen an espagnole in decades but I use those methods daily. I hear a few comments from co-workers and visitors "thats time consuming"

My reply is always " if you don't like cooking, go do something you do like , because it shows in our work".

I have a mason freind who hears the same thing, 'laying bricks is too slow'.
He knows the difference.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 08:43 pm: Edit

C'mon Santameurte, say something. Almost nobody's been posting for about 4 days now. If this keeps up, I'm gonna hafta pick an arguement with one of my suppliers to keep myself from getting bored....

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 03:34 pm: Edit

OK foodpump; i see the topic didn't scandalize the community as you or i might have hoped. i really like what you said about getting the *whole* business right. i've also witnessed many crimes against food. a substantial number of pros treat cooking as some crude manufacturing process, like smelting ore or something, rather than the craft that it is. bakers are more likely to grasp that in many cases, relatively minor changes in techniques, procedures, or ingredients can have dramatic consequences. julia child once observed that former bakers make the best cooks, because they're accustomed to precision.

but respect for food is a separate issue. as for what i said about a more flexible, 'first principles' approach to defining sauces, well, i suppose i should also have mentioned that the fundamental ingredients could be reduced to three: stocks/broths, liquid foods (milk, wine, juices, etc), and purees, while the methods can be reduced to three: liaison, emulsion, and reduction.

this makes everything modular. the 5 mothers, imho, are too specific, too similar to each other, and represent bottlenecks. to be sure, you can make a lot of nifty sauces with them, but i think it better to step back to more fundamental ingredients and cooking principles. this would broaden and extend the cook's palette while demystifying the whole affair.

i think it would be a lot easier for cooks if the whole business of sauces were -- pardon the expression -- reduced and clarified ;-)

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Monday, February 21, 2005 - 09:40 pm: Edit

To reduce and clarify would mean to go to a "model" sauce, go over each ingredient and how it should be handled, each technique and what it does, and what can be done with the final product.

Lets see, tomato sauce. Don't really like Escoffier's version--bound with roux. I'd like to see onions carmalized to gold, tomato paste added and sauteéd until mahogany, then chopped garlic added, slightly sweated, then tomato trimmings, brought to a boil, then simmer, skim, add in bay, pepper, thyme, basil, reduced a little and then run through a vegetable strainer. Not really a coulis because it has tomato paste, but a decent sauce that would do honor to a plate of pasta.

Some one has to explain that carmelizing onions brings out more flavor than just translucent onions, sauteíng tomato paste removes the bitterness of the paste and adds layers of flavour, adding the garlic at the right time is crucial to avoid the harsh bitter flavour of burnt garlic, skimming the scum off of anything is habitual--like washing your hands after going potty: You don't even think about it, you just do it.
So, a model sauce. Sounds suspiciously familiar to a Mother sauce... Maybe we could call them Zappa sauces, a play on the Mothers of invention....

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 10:24 am: Edit

yes, model sauces are good. your example sounds tasty, but how about a simpler one? for liaisons, plain old gravy would be one and fruit sauce would be another (assuming major reduction is not involved and the primary thickener is pectin; otherwise you've got coulis i reckon). for emulsion, how about burre blanc, mayonnaise, etc. and for reduction, how about a simple wine glaze?

btw, i'm not even sure what coulis means any more. i always thought of it as a reduced vegetable or fruit puree, but people nowadays attach it to sauces made in just about every manner. it seems exotic, fancy, -- "french", so the name turns up all over the place. marketing droids love the sound of it ;-)

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 10:55 pm: Edit

O.K. I think I've got it now. Simple sauces for new cooks to master before they go on to more complex ones, learning to crawl before walking. You're right, the classic stuff does get confusing if you don't know or can't relate to an Espagnole.

Lets see, "pan gravy": Take the finished roast out of the pan and let it rest on a rack, pour off everything into a pitcher, if nothing is scorched deglaze the roasting pan with light chicken stock or apropriate stock, pour into pitcher. Add a few tablespoons of dripping from the pitcher into a sautoir, whisk in flour, when the foaming subsides add in the defatted stock from the pitcher, reduce a little, season, strain. Could be turkey, roast pork, lamb, whatever, but there's alot of un-explained between the lines: Did the roast rest on a mirepoix in the pan? Those clumpy fluffy white foamy bits, are they good? Should I smash them up with a whisk and incorporte them into the sauce too? This could get interesting

By Santamuerte (Santamuerte) on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 10:18 am: Edit

wow, that's a lot of work. how about: remove roasts to rest. pour off excess fat and save. make roux in pan with remaining fat (deglazing simultaneously). add appropriate stock, and juices from resting roasts. simmer, season, strain.

that's gravy. the rest is variable. admittedly, that's not how *i* make it, but that's the basic procedure. plenty can go wrong for a novice, so there's plenty here for you to critique (and fix), and for them to learn from.

when they've mastered this (not too thick, not too thin; not too greasy, not too 'dry'; no raw or burnt flour taste; no roux 'dumplings' floating on top, etc.), they should be able to make a more complicated gravy just as well -- or so i believe.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 08:14 pm: Edit

Yeah, that would work quite well. Emulsions will be more dificult, but novices should be made aware of the problems beforehand and how to correct them or there'll be heavy garbage cans and mysterious bowls of eggwhites in the walk in...

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 03:46 pm: Edit

Even if you tell us novices how to do it, and what not to do when making, say gravy. The only real way to learn it is to actually do it. I definatly remember the 1st time I ever made gravy...lmao... I have since learned that it doesn't take that much flour! I ended up w/ a pan full of roux that if thinned into gravy would have filled gallons. I don't have that problem anymore because I learned from it.
Its the same with anything, experience pays off(that is if you actually learn from it and don't run away).

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 03:48 pm: Edit

Oh, btw, I do tend to agree that the "mother sauces" could be revamped. I'm not sure I like the way you have layed it out into 3 ways, but it does make sense.
Sauces have become more than just "toppings". So, yes, as the food industry adapts so should the 5 mother sauces. Heck, I think I remember the debate on here about what those were and if a couple of them should be taken off the list.

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 08:24 am: Edit

It was a woman and mother, Catherine di Medici, who taught the French how to cook. Where would we be without Mothers(Sauces, pun intended)? (I'm just teasing you man--great posts on the other thread. I can't draw cartoon dogs very well, but did assist in an ice carving of Snoopy! lol)
I'm compelled to give a pastry cooking perspective:
"Most of the foundations of cooking--and even more so baking, since it is more structured--can and should be taught from mother recipes: custard cream can become ice cream, creme brulee, or buttercream, or it can be transformed into pastry cream, a base for a souffle, or a creme chiboust. This process of learning was the classic approach in Paris when I was a child in the 1950s. It teaches not just recipes but how to bake and cook, so that at some point, using that basic knowledge, pastry chefs or cooks can do variations of their own, creating very personal new recipes from old techniques."--Jacques Pepin.
(The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard, pp. xiii, xiv.)
So call you mother, and tell her that you love her--which reminds me to contact my mother, otherwise, she'll say, "After all that I've done for him--he never calls, writes, nor even sends flowers or a card. What an ingrate!" (lol) Take care.

By Jowater (Jowater) on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 05:55 pm: Edit

I am a MOTHER and I would like to know howlong it gets to get posted!

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 08:37 pm: Edit

See guys...I am on the fence with this one...does anyone actually make a demi in the "classical" tradition?? no. Espagnole ever made....maybe in the classroom. Are there a few "modern","contemporary" sauces worth a study and recognition...hell yes. But I would hate to think what would happen if we were to forget about the classics and do nothing but "modern" cookery.....Kitchens are not set up like in the days of Escoffier and Careme and I neither should they be, and recipes should and do reflect that. But to teach one the roots to which this great and noble industry came from I think pays hommage to those that sacrificed their blood sweat and tears to bring "chefing" to what it is today. Bury those dead, old, worthless bitches we call "Mother" sauces!?!?!? NO. Remember and teach the respect, traditions andfull meanings that they deserve!

By Sevenstar (Sevenstar) on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 02:44 am: Edit

actually a real demi is worth making. is santa's name a spin off of santeria?

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 09:15 am: Edit

even if they changed from 5 mother sauces to something new and "improved", they should still teach about them for if nothing else, history of how it was.
Other than electric mixers and other "modern" tech stuff, I'm sure the kitchens back then were fairly similar to today's. Just more staff to produce the large amount of food that would only take 5-10 ppl to make today. Think that's about right?

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 09:53 am: Edit

I never said making a real demi was not worth're right, it is. I have made the traditional "version" many a times, and it is far superior to a reduced, fortified veal stock which is the common practice today. As far as the kitchen design goes they have changed dramaticaly. I have the pleasure of working on a property that has a CC that was built around 100 yrs ago and the walls have not changed all that much from when built. It is not at all stream lined like todays kitchens. They were much more spread out and sectioned back then.

By Blaphbee (Blaphbee) on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 11:51 am: Edit

As to the question raised by Foodpump about roasts/gravy:

I've always found remarkable results by roasting whatever the meat was on a mirepoix, then draining the excess fat, adding stock (or even water), bringing to a boil, and then pureeing the whole mess in a blender until smooth.

No roux complications, and a hell of a lot of flavour added; this is why you can get away with water in such an instance, as the caramelized veg adds tons of flavour. Healthier too, as there isn't as much added fat via a roux.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those "no fat" types, but it isn't ALWAYS necessary in every single food preparation to use a pound of fat.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 07:58 pm: Edit

Sauces are a bitch, but the best test of a Chef that I know!!!!!
A Chef I worked with when I was 14 told me that sauces was the most difficult part of the kitchen....and I jumped on that first!!!..I learned how to make a Hollandaise when I was 14 by coming in early when I was a busboy and making it (Hollandaise) for the Chef on Sunday mornings for brunch!

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 08:35 am: Edit

Hollandaise is easy......warm water, open a packet of Knorr and whisk....what's the big deal??is almost as hard as opening a bottle of roasted garlic GourMayo for aioli. Jeese Manny all that extra time doing the Chefs job when I gave two lessons right there.
BTW...I am kidding...I cringe at the thought of somebody actually doing this.........

By Jowater (Jowater) on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 10:06 am: Edit

I tell ya! I wuz way above my school mates when I went to school and could make a damn sauce!One test wuz the "Mothers"

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