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 is made by melting butter, stirring in flour and letting it brown some. It is the start of
making many French sauces.
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
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.).
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.
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.