There’s something missing in your cooking, and if we were to take a wild guess, we’d say it was sauces. For those of you who have dreamt of going to culinary school but just never took the plunge, here’s something you would’ve learned while there: how to make the mother sauces, and why they’re essential to your cooking.
A lot of people don’t know the term "mother sauces," but it refers to the five basic and essential sauces that all other sauces stem from. They’re the building blocks of what every young chef is taught during their training, because if you know the mother sauces, you know the foundations of pretty much any other sauce out there (the technical term for those other sauces are "small sauces").
Times are changing, though. If you asked a traditional French chef what the five mother sauces are, he’d give you a traditional list (and maybe a few additional ones), but if you turned to a more modern cook, such as Martha Holmberg of Modern Sauces, she’d give you a different answer. That’s because Holmberg is a modernist cook, and believes that some of the five mother sauces — which are béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise, and a classic tomato sauce — are a little outdated, and aren’t as essential to your cooking as they may have been back in the day.
Without trying to disrespect the French men in toques, Holmberg defined a different set of foundational sauces (including some of the originals) that she believes are essential to cooking today. To her, a sauce is "something that brings all of the elements together [and] provides energy to the dishes," she explains, and adds "you can have a pork chop, sautéed greens, and rice on a plate, and then you drizzle a little cider-apple butter sauce on all of it, and now all of those things are [one] dish."
Released last fall, her book explores the foundations of the mother sauces and demonstrates why they are essential to know at home. By providing more than 100 sauce recipes in her book, Holmberg shows you all of the different ways you can bring your cooking together and add a piece of excitement to it, and all of those ways start with the mother sauces — her mother sauces. So, to give you a little taste of that culinary school you dreamt of going to, and to add some life to your cooking, Holmberg will tell you her five main mother sauces that you should know how to make, and where you can go from there.
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce