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Classic French Sauces
and How to Prepare these Great Classic Sauces

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In this section we'll tell you all about French sauces that are an integral part of French cuisine, and the world of cooking.  There is a huge difference between gravy and a sauce.  Gravies are made in the skillet or pan from the drippings of cooked meats, then thickened with flour, cornstarch or arrowroot.  Whereas sauces have to stand on their own, not relying on the meat fat or meat tidbits for flavor, but the have to enhance the meat, fish, vegetables whatever on their own.  Sauces do thicken and have body, but are not thick and heavy.  Sauces can be bold, or subtle, but always lighter in taste and calories than gravies.

The classic French sauces have changed the world of cooking, especially in the U. S.  There are other classic sauces that are just as important in the world of gourmet cooking, including fruit sauces and vegetable sauces that will enhance the food that you cook everyday....and forever, once you've tried them! 
 

  Béchamel Sauce Family - Light Warm Cream Sauces
This family of sauces consist of flour thickened light cream sauces, that you might be reminiscent of pan gravies, but the difference as with all classic French sauces, they do not use pan drippings from meats, but rather stand on their own individual character to enhance the food that it is to compliment.

                                               Béchamel Basic Recipe
              
1/8 lb. butter
4 T. Flour
2 c. cold milk
1 t. sugar

1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
 

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over low heat, and stir in the flour.  Stirring constantly for 3 minutes, thus cooking the flour and eliminating a pasty taste.  Do not let flour brown, add the remaining ingredients, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.  Makes about 2 cups of sauce.
 

Béchamel Sauce Variations - Family I Offspring's
All offspring recipes in this family are cooked in the 1/8 lb. butter from the parent recipe.
  Then additional ingredients are added to create the offspring sauce.
 

  Albert Sauce - Simmer 2 minced shallots, 2 T. grated horseradish, and 1/2 t. dry mustard in the butter, and continue with the basic recipe.  Add 1 T. of sherry and 1 T. vinegar, and then finish with a chunk of unsalted butter.  Serve with light roasted meats.
 
  Champignon Sauce - Saute 1 c. small mushrooms in the butter, continue with basic recipe, stir in a blended mixture of 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk.
Serve with eggs, fish and vegetables.
 
  Duxelles Sauce - Sauté 2 minced onions in butter for 8 minutes, add 1 c. minced mushrooms and sauté another 5 minutes.  Continue with basic recipe, stir in a blended mixture of 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk, and serve with poultry, eggs and vegetables.
 
  Moutarde Sauce - Sauté 1 T. dry mustard in the butter and continue with the basic recipe.  To finish, add 3 T. whipping cream.  Serve with eggs, poultry and vegetables.
 
  Soubise Sauce - Simmer over low heat, 2 c.  minced onions in the butter for 5 - 10 minutes until soft, then add 1 t. confectioners sugar and continue with the basic recipe.  Mash through a fine sieve and finish with a chunk of unsalted butter and 2 T. crème fraîche.  Use for roasted white meats.
 

Béchamel Sauce Variations - Family II Offspring's
All Béchamel family II sauces use the finished parent Béchamel Sauce recipe, then specific ingredients are added to complete the offspring sauces.
 
  Aurore Sauce - Stir in 1/2 c. tomato purée and 2 T. sherry to parent recipe.  Serve with eggs and vegetables.
 
  Chantilly Sauce - Fold in 1 t. fresh lemon zest and 4 T. whipped cream into warm Béchamel sauce.  Serve with eggs or vegetables.
 
  Mornay Sauce - combine 2 egg yolks, 4 T. whipping cream, 4 T. grated parmesan cheese to the finished parent sauce.  Heat sauce just enough to melt the cheese [do not boil], and serve with eggs or vegetables.
 
  Quenelle Sauce - Stir in 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk blended mixture, 2 T. whipping cream, a chunk of unsalted butter, and finish the sauce with 2 T. sherry and 2 drops red food coloring.  Add the cooked Quenelles, seafood or vegetables to the sauce and heat gently and serve.
 


 
  Velouté Sauce - Light Warm Béchamel Sauces
The Velouté Sauce family is Béchamel sauce made with either chicken or fish stock rather than milk.  These sauces are interchangeable between the two families -- in other words you can use either the Béchamel or Velouté  basic recipe for any of the sauces in these two families, opting for a milk or stock base.

                 
   Velouté Sauce Recipe - Basic Recipe
              
1/8 lb. butter
4 T. Flour
2 c. chicken or fish stock
1 t. sugar

Makes about 2 cups
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
Dash of nutmeg

 
  To make Poultry Velouté Sauce use chicken stock, for Fish Velouté Sauce use fish stock, and for Seafood Velouté use seafood stock.  Prepare the recipes as you would in the basic Béchamel Sauce Recipe above.
 
  Bercy Sauce - in a small heavy saucepan, pour in 1/4 c. white dry wine, and 2 minced shallots and bring to a boil, reduce until liquid is gone.  Stir in a basic recipe of Velouté sauce, add 1 T. fresh lemon juice and finish with a chunk of butter, and 1 T. minced parsley.
 
  Champignon - in a small heavy saucepan, pour in 1/2 c. white dry wine, and 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms, bring to a boil, reduce until liquid is gone.  Add 2 T. Cognac [you can use a brandy] and flambe.  When the flame dies, add the recipe of Velouté sauce, heat, stir in a blended mixture of 1/4 c. crème fraîche and 1 egg yolk to finish.
 
  Ravigote - in a small heavy saucepan, pour in 1/4 c. white dry wine, and 2 T. vinegar, bring to a boil, and reduce until liquid is gone.  Add the recipe of Velouté sauce, a chunk of butter and sprinkle sauce mixture with 1 T. chopped chives and 2 T. chopped French tarragon.



 
Hollandaise Sauce Family [White Warm Sauces]
The Hollandaise Sauce Family is probably the most widely recognized and used sauce of the classic French sauces.   There are several methods to prepare this sauce, but traditionally the hand whisk is the best way to make this sauce, and this sauce is only served lukewarm [do not reheat].  Set the dish with the sauce in it, into a dish or pan with warm water [same temperature of the sauce] to maintain the warmth until served.

There are several family offspring sauces of Hollandaise, and all worth trying.  We're going to focus on the Hollandaise Sauce Family II that simply uses the basic Hollandaise recipe, then specific ingredients are added to the parent sauce for finishing.  Please note that this sauce in France is usually made in a specific heavy lined copper pot or cast iron pot, so for all intents and purposes the safest way to make this recipe without scorching problems, is to use a double boiler [add  about 1/2 inch water to bottom of double boiler].  Make sure the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not touch the top part.

Be sure that you have all of your ingredients measured and at hand before starting the sauce.  Prepare you clarified butter and have at hand. This goes very quickly!

                  Hollandaise Sauce Recipe - Basic Recipe
              
3/4 c. clarified butter - 1-1/2 sticks
4 egg yolks [remove white matter]
1 T. cold water

Makes about 1/2 to 3/4 cup
1/2 t. salt
Dash white pepper
1 t. fresh lemon juice
 
Bring the water in the lower part of the double boiler to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, set on the top of the double boiler and place the egg yolks and water into the top of the double boiler.  Start whisking, and continue until mixture starts to thicken.  Gradually add the butter [squeeze from plastic bottle] whisking constantly and add salt. pepper and lemon juice.

Hollandaise sauces can be made ahead of time and frozen in small freezer bags, or small inexpensive reusable plastic dishes.

Note:  if sauce starts to thicken too quickly, remove from heat and sit the top of the double boiler into another pan with cold water to stop the cooking process, then continue with recipe.

All Hollandaise Family II Sauce recipes use the basic recipe above then add the listed ingredients of each sauce recipe to finish the sauce.
 
Sauce Anchois - add 1 T. anchovy paste, add to sauce, serve with fish
 
Sauce Câpres - add 2 T. drained refrigerated capers,  add to sauce, serve with eggs, fish and poultry.
 
Sauce Chantilly - add 2 T. creme fraiche, add to sauce, serve with vegetables
 
Sauce Citron - add 2 T. lemon zest to sauce, serve on grilled fish.
 
Sauce Divine - in a small sauce pan add 3 T. sherry and reduce by half, then add to Chantilly recipe.  Serve on poached fish or on breast of white poultry.
 
Sauce Noisette - add 1/4 c. finely chopped and roasted hazelnuts or almonds to sauce, and serve with cooked fresh vegetables [green beans, asparagus, etc.]
 
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