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The Mothers of All Sauces

November 07, 1996|RUSS PARSONS

What are the essential sauces, those foundations upon which the empire of French cuisine was based? The answer depends on whom you ask, and when.

Care^me, writing in the 19th century, came up with the term sauces meres (mother sauces) and he chose four: bechamel (milk thickened with a roux), veloute (light stock thickened with a roux), espagnole (brown stock thickened with a roux) and allemande (essentially a veloute enriched with eggs and cream).

Escoffier seemed to be of two minds about both the number and composition of the royal family. In "Le Guide Culinaire," published in 1921, he dropped allemande and added tomato sauce and hollandaise, making five.

In "Ma Cuisine," his magnum opus published in 1934, one year before his death, he reduced that number to three "fundamental" sauces: espagnole, veloute and bechamel, with the comment: "Following this, we have tomato sauce, which also plays an important part in modern cooking." Hollandaise was relegated to the culinary back bench, among the petites sauces blanches composees, or white compound sauces.

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