Five Sauces Everyone Should Know How To Make For Endless Meal Options

Five Sauces Everyone Should Know How to Make for Endless Meal Options

"What's for dinner?" might be the most dreaded question of everyday life. Even if you have a lot of ingredients on hand, you have to figure out what to do with them and whether you can make something you're in the mood for. Learn how to make a few basic sauces, however, and you have flexibility — turn whatever you have on hand into an awesome meal.

Sauces elevate a meal and make it easy for anyone to turn a bunch of vegetables and proteins into a finished dish with almost no thought. While every cuisine has its own standard sauces and flavour bases, once you know at least a few of them, you can add additional ingredients or flavour accents to expand your meal options. Here are a few to consider.

Bechamel (White Sauce)

Bechamel, a creamy white sauce, is one of the "Mother Sauces" or leading sauces from which all other sauces are born. (Others include veloute, brown sauce/espagnole and hollaindaise, below.) The Joy of Cooking says:

This French sauce is prized for its unassertive character and smooth texture, which make it the ideal agent to thicken and bind a wide range of dishes and to coat many kinds of foods. Make your béchamel a little thicker than you think it should be, because it is easier to thin it out than to thicken it.

Use béchamel sauce in lasagna, to cook vegetables in a casserole, for mac and cheese, and pretty much any cheese-based dish. You can substitute vegetable stock instead of the milk for a vegan version. Basically, you moisten white roux (equal parts butter and flour) with milk, salt an onion with cloves stuck in it, and simmer until it's creamy and smooth. As an alternative, the New York Times offers a healthy version using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.

My fellow writer and food lover, Alan Henry also offers these tips:

The trick to a Béchamel is that it can be tricky if you don't control heat, and if you're the type who can't pay attention to one thing in the kitchen at one time, but you start with a roux (flour and butter/lard/shortening), get it nice and blonde (or brown, but usually not), and then add your dairy. Stir for what seems like forever until it thickens up and smoothes out, and you're set. Try making a Béchamel with bacon fat. It'll change your life.

Veloute

It has a fancy name, but veloute is basically like béchamel, only instead of milk you make it with a light-coloured stock (chicken, fish or vegetable stock). It's really versatile, since you can use this sauce with any protein or just vegetables (and you can add mushrooms, shallots and or white wine for more variations).

The video above from Everoneitalian.com shows you how easy it is to make. Mix 2 sticks of butter with about a cup and a half of flour to make the roux, and then add 3 cups of chicken stock.

For a Chinese version (great for stir frying or fried rice), check out this video from the Art of Cooking.

Espagnol (Brown Sauce)

This is basically a simple brown gravy that can form the basis for steak sauce, mushroom sauces, madeira and more. Like the sauces above, you use equal parts butter and flour (or try making it with bacon fat instead of butter!). Then add mirepoix — onions, carrots and celery — and stir in tomatoes and beef stock.

There are lots of other ways to make brown sauce, but you get the idea. If you just want a quick sauce, however, consider just making a simple gravy from the pan drippings. As Alan says:

We talk a lot about how to make the perfect steak — why let all of those delicious brown bits on the pan go to waste? Add some fat like butter, a little flour to thicken, salt and pepper, and something to deglaze the pan like wine, balsamic vinegar or sherry (or any other cooking wine). Scrub up those brown bits and stir until it's all smooth, and you're good to go. Honestly, I could go on about the myriad ways to make simple pan gravy — everyone should do it at least once, if they haven't already for Thanksgiving or something. It's easy and super-fast, especially if you've already fried or cooked something in the pan, or you've roasted something and have drippings to spare!

Or, as the Reluctant Gourmet advises, make a brown sauce base quickly using demi-glace, a shallot, and red wine.

Marinara Sauce

A basic spaghetti sauce, as we've mentioned before, not only is fundamental for many Italian dishes, it's also a great way to learn basic cooking techniques. This is Chef Anthony Thomas' roasted garlic and spaghetti sauce recipe, but again, there are tons of variations on this classic, which is part of what makes it so useful to know how to make. Above is Giada BKSP.de Laurentiis made-from-scratch, in-under-30-minutes instructions. (I'm a big fan of the Pioneer Woman's version, even though — gasp! — she uses a jar of premade sauce.)

Garlic Sauce

Five Sauces Everyone Should Know How to Make for Endless Meal Options

Here's a simple sauce for garlic lovers. It's similar to a mayonnaise (which many consider an essential sauce), but lighter. Tony Tahhan says Arabs call it toum (toum being the Arabic word for garlic) and offers this simple recipe. You can make it with just garlic, lemon juice and oil, or, as the recipe shows, add egg white. Try it on grilled chicken, potatoes or just about anything you would put mayo on.

Of course, these five sauces are only scratching the surface of what you can learn and there are many other cuisines to explore. (Mexican mole, Thai peanut sauce, Indian curries, Chinese curries to name a few. Here are 12 more, including hummus, nut sauce and pestos.) Keep the pantry staples on hand to make these sauces, however, and you can make an array of delicious food. (Don't forget you can make your own Sriracha too.)


Comments

    Teriyaki Sauce should be on this list as well. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and people will think you're an F-ing God for making it.

      And most people can't handle that teriyaki sauce is just soy sauce, fish stock and sugar.

        Most people can't handle that terriyaki is a method, not a sauce.

          Most people can't handle that its actually spelt 'teriyaki'

            Most people can't handle that Terry Arkey is a great bloke and a hell of a darts player.

        Authentic teriyaki sauce is shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), mirin and sugar or honey. Sometimes also sake and/or ginger. No stock unless you're watering it down for some reason or making a different dish. Mirin is the most important ingredient.

    White (bechamel) sauce is easier to make in the microwave:

    Melt butter
    Add flour and stir
    Microwave for two minutes
    Add some milk (not all) and stir, don't worry about the lumps they go away eventually
    Add the rest of the milk
    Microwave for five minutes
    Stir well
    Microwave for another five minutes
    Stir well
    Microwave for another two minutes
    Claim victory.

      I actually find it easier to skip the rue and mix the flour with some of the cold milk - it tends to lump less this way for whatever reason.. Then, adding the butter as it begins to heat smooths out the final lumps, add the rest of the milk and whatever seasoning (pepper, cheese, etc) and bring to the boil.

    What about a basic Mayo?

      Probably classed as a condiment rather than a sauce. When was the last time you heard somebody ask for "mayonnaise sauce"?

        Last heard mayo was referred as a sauce at Subway.

        Well I'm not they type to kiss and tell ;-p

        everyday at work people ask for side mayo, whatever one they want.

    You could have learned all this, and much much more, by reading the first chapter of Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Julia can make any dork a decidedly above average cook.

    No mayo, but there's an obscure egg white garlic sauce? WTF?

    And I'd add a simple cream reduction to the list.

    And 'Marinara' sauce? Are we in the USA?

    Also, goddamit, I'm complaining on the internet again. *smacks forehead*

    I quite like making my own Satay sauce however for some reason no one else in my family likes it :(

    Garlic sauce = aioli...

    Since this blog is about "5" sauces, I can only conclude it refers to the 5 mother sauces of which so many other sauces derive (They're called mother sauces because each one is like the head of its own family of sauces). First 3 sauces mentioned are fine, but mayonnaise? It's the derivative of the mother sauce Hollandaise ... and tomato, hell it's so simple to make, hard to believe anyone bothering to discuss how to cook classic sauces would admit they admire a bottled sauce recipe?? Apologies for sounding like a purist but come on, I didn't start this blog and there's a good reason why there's 5 mother sauces, because so many sauces we know today are built on these basic foundations. To the person trying to make a roux with flour and milk, it's not a roux as such although you'll probably manage to thicken whatever it is. Purpose of a roux is to not only remove the 'raw' flour taste but to enhance the overall flavour while thickening a sauce or soup etc with a more velvet finish instead of lumps.

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