A sauce is something that adds moisture, flavour and a visual appeal to the dish. It helps bind the ingredients together and also aids in digestion.
As a chef I believe, knowing the basics make all the difference in the kitchen and that is why I think it is important for an apprentice or a culinary student to have a strong foundation in sauces. Having good knowledge in sauces implies to knowing all the categories and their applications as well.
When we talk about categories in sauces, the five mother sauces of French Cuisine are the most important classification in sauces that a culinary professional should be well versed in. A thorough knowledge in these five sauces is very crucial as it will help you understand its application & derivations.
Béchamel sauce is a combination of flour & butter which is called roux, with the addition of infused milk to this mixture. This sauce is mostly used in the preparation of dishes such as Lasagna, and Mac & Cheese.
One of the traditional derivations of this sauce is Mornay sauce. If you add egg yolk, parmesan cheese and cream to bechamel sauce, it becomes Mornay sauce which is one of the classic sauces used to prepare Cauliflower Mornay. This sauce is also served with chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs and vegetables.
It is a warm emulsion sauce that consists of egg yolk, vinegar reduction, and clarified butter. An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that would normally not mix together. It is often used in classic dishes such as Egg Benedict and baked or poached fish.
It is a cold emulsion sauce that consists of egg yolk, vinegar, salt & pepper, mustard and vegetable oil. Mayonnaise is a household sauce that is used for salad dressing or in sandwiches and wraps. Tartar sauce served with fried fish, Cocktail sauce used in shrimp cocktail & salad dressing and Thousand Island are some of the derivatives of Mayonnaise.
This sauce is prepared with Roux, which is flour and butter cooked together for five minutes with the addition of white stock to it. The white stock used in this sauce could be of chicken, fish or veal, depending on the dish the sauce is used with.
Espagnole is also known as Brown sauce, as it is made out of Brown Roux, which is prepared by cooking flour and butter together for ten minutes with the addition of brown stock to it. The brown stock for the sauce is made by simmering roasted veal bones along with aromatic vegetables for eight hours, where the veal bones are roasted in the oven prior to simmering to get a perfect caramelised colour.
This sauce does not have a direct application in food but is used to make another sauce called Demi-Glaze, which is also known as a foundation sauce with an endless variety of derivatives to it. Pepper sauce, Mushroom sauce, and Rosemary sauce are some of the derivatives of Demi-Glaze.