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Classic French Sauces

Mother Sauce Recipes

When you think of French food and classic French cooking you probably think of French sauces. And you are right to do just that! Sauce recipes are prevalent in French cooking. They are used not only as toppings for simply cooked foods (grilled meat or steamed vegetables for example), but also as ingredients within other recipes.

Don't be scared off by those fancy names!

French sauces should not intimidate you. After you've made a sauce one time you will see how simple it can be. And the name can add elegance to your meal. Try calling macaroni and cheese, Des Pates à la Sauce Mornay, and see if your family notices the difference.


Types of Sauces

Classic French sauces can be categorized by how they are made. You will find several sauces all based on one sauce, called the mother sauce (sauce mère). Once you understand how to make the mother sauce, it is easy to do the variations. In fact, if you learn how to make a bechamel sauce, a hollandaise sauce, and mayonnaise, you will be able to make dozens of different sauces (and hundreds of different dishes)!

Roux Sauces

Roux is made by melting butter, stirring in flour and letting it brown some. It is the start of making many French sauces.
  • White Sauce Recipe (Sauce Blanche) - Roux combined with water or stock.
  • Bechamel Sauce (Sauce Béchamel) - Roux combined with milk. Used in many recipes including lasagne. (Notice that the word white sauce has a slightly different meaning in French.)
  • Cheese Sauce Recipe (Sauce Mornay) - A béchamel sauce made with cheese. Often served with steamed vegetables and fish.
  • Onion Sauce Recipe (Sauce Soubise) - A béchamel made with onions. Good with grilled meats.
  • Green Sauce (Sauce Verte) - White sauce with lots of fresh herbs added.
  • Cardinal Sauce (Sauce Cardinal) - A red sauce flavored with lobster butter and sometimes a pinch of cayenne. Served on fish.

Cold Emulsified Sauces

These sauces are based on the mayonnaise recipe here, which is made by emulsifying oil with eggs. Emulsifying consists of gradually adding oil to another liquid so that the oil evenly disperses in tiny droplets throughout the resulting mixture.
  • Aioli Recipe - Mayonnaise made with garlic. Use like you would mayonnaise. Great with chilled shrimp or hard boiled eggs.
  • Rémoulade Sauce Recipe - Mayonnaise with mustard, chopped capers, anchovies, pickles and herbs. If you eat raw celery root in France, it will most likely be served in a remoulade sauce.
  • Tartar Sauce Recipe (Sauce Tartare) - Mayonnaise with chopped egg yolks, chives, pickles and capers. Often served with fried fish.
  • Green Sauce (Sauce Verte) - A different green sauce from the one above. This one is made from mayonnaise that is flavored with herbs (parsley, tarragon, chervil, etc.).

Stock Sauces

These sauces are based on either chicken or fish (fond blanc) or meat stock (fond brun). The white sauce above is considered a stock sauce as well as a roux sauce. If you combine roux with beef stock you get a Brown Sauce (also known as a Spanish Sauce). Here are some other stock sauces:
  • Sauce Charcutière - Named after the French butcher who specializes in pork products, this brown sauce with pickles is perfect on top of a fried pork chop.
  • Tomato Cream Sauce Recipe (Sauce Aurore) - White sauce made with pureed tomatoes. Great on all sorts of things - chicken, fish, vegetables.
  • Wine Sauce Recipes (Sauce Bordelaise) - Brown sauce made with wine. Served with meats.
  • Madeira Sauce - Brown sauce made with Madeira wine from Portugal. Goes very well with poultry and some vegetables (endive for example). I serve it instead of gravy with the holiday bird.

  • Mushroom Sauce (Sauce aux Champignons) - White sauce made with mushrooms.

  • Financiere Sauce (Sauce Financière) - Another white sauce with mushrooms, but also wine, ham, and truffle bits. This is getting a bit fancy, eh?

  • Pepper Sauce (Sauce Poivrade) - Brown sauce with bacon, carrots, onions, shallots and cracked pepper corns. Served with red meat and game.

  • Supreme Sauce (A rich white sauce recipe) - White sauce made with chicken stock and cream. Served with chicken, poached eggs, and asparagus.

Hot Emulsified Sauces

Both this Hollandaise sauce recipe and this bernaise sauce recipe are hot emulsions made with egg yolks and butter. Bernaise sauce includes tarragon and also reduced vinegar. Together these sauces form the basis of other French sauces:
  • Mousseline - Hollandiase sauce made with beaten cream.
  • Mustard Sauce (Sauce à la Moutarde) - Hollandaise made with mustard. Served with fish or chicken.

  • Maltese Sauce (Orange Sauce Recipe) - Hollandaise sauce flavored with blood oranges. Served with poached fish and steamed vegetables. Goes well with asparagus.

  • Choron Sauce (Sauce Choron) - Bernaise sauce made with tomato puree. Served with beef.

  • Foyot Sauce (Sauce Foyot) - Bernaise sauce made with reduced meat stock. Served with beef and steamed vegetables.

Other Sauces

And here are some French sauces that don't fit into the above mother sauces, but are easy to make and can add a touch of France to your meal tonight:

Go from French sauces to French Foods.

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