The Very Basics of French Sauces
Sauces are, of course, a crucial element of French cuisine, and the French cook can recreate the canon of sauces from a limited set of
techniques and ingredients. Here's a quick run down of some very basic sauce-stuff:
- A relative of hollandaise, béarnaise is a reduction of vinegar, tarragon and shallots that is finished with egg yolks and butter.
- Add milk or cream to a white roux and voilà! it becomes a béchamel.
- A hollandaise uses butter and egg-yolk as its liasons. It is served hot with vegetables, fish and eggs -- like on eggs Benedict.
- A liaison, or binding agent, is the base of any French sauce. Egg yolks, butter, flour, and puréed vegetables are all liaisons.
- A reduction is the mixture that results from rapidly boiling a liquid (like stock, wine, or a sauce) and causing evaporation -- "reducing" the sauce. The reduction is thicker and has a more intense flavor than the original liquid.
- This classic sauce mixes mayonnaise, mustard, capers, chopped gherkins, herbs, and anchovies.
- A French sauce whose name translates literally as "rust." Chiles, garlic, bread crumbs and olive oil are pounded into a spicy, rust-colored paste and lightened with fish stock. It often garnishes bouillabaisse.
- Roux, a combination of flour and a fat, usually butter. A roux can be white, blond, or brown, depending on ingredients and cooking time (the longer you cook butter, the browner it gets).
- Mix a white roux with white stock (light chicken or veal stock) and it becomes a velouté.