In cooking, a sauce is liquid or sometimes semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted. Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, pico de gallo salsa or chutney) may contain more solid elements than liquid. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.
Sauces may be ready made sauces, usually bought, such as soy sauce, or freshly prepared by the cook; such as Béchamel sauce, which is generally made just before serving. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces. A cook who specializes in making sauces is a saucier.
Sauces in French cuisine
Sauces in French cuisine date back to the Middle Ages. There were hundreds of sauces in the culinary repertoire. In 'classical' French cooking (19th and 20th century until nouvelle cuisine), sauces were a major defining characteristic of French cuisine.
In the 19th century, the chef Antonin Carême classified sauces into four families, each of which was based on a mother sauce (Also called grandes sauces). Carême's four mother sauces were:
- Bechamel, based on milk, thickened with a white roux.
- Espagnole, based on brown stock (usually veal), thickened with a brown roux.
- Velouté, based on a white stock, thickened with a blonde roux.
- Allemande, based on velouté sauce, is thickened with egg yolks and heavy cream.
In the early 20th century, the chef Auguste Escoffier updated the classification, adding sauces such as tomato sauce, butter sauces and emulsified sauces such as Mayonnaise and Hollandaise.
A sauce which is derived from one of the mother sauces is sometimes called a small sauce, or secondary sauce. Most sauces commonly used in classical cuisine are small sauces, or derivatives of one of the above mentioned mother sauces. Mother sauces are not commonly served as they are; instead they are augmented with additional ingredients to make small (derivative) sauces. For example, Bechamel can be made into Mornay by the addition of Gruyère or any cheese one may like, and Espagnole becomes Bordelaise with the addition and reduction of red wine, shallots, and poached beef marrow.
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