French cuisine has long been branded as one of the world's best. From crêpes to coq au vin, savoury to sweet, the exciting flavours of this European fare are well-beloved around the world. There's plenty of versatility within its range yet there's one—or perhaps five—things we can be sure of: the five mother sauces of French cuisine. Béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise, and tomato sauces are ever-present in French food, whether as themselves or in the million other derivatives that they can turn into when cooked with other ingredients. Did you know that almost all other sauces in French cuisine use one of these five as its foundation? Today, we explore the five mother sauces that have greatly influenced this delicious gastronomy.
Béchamel sauce (otherwise known as white sauce) is a milk-based sauce made with only three ingredients: butter, flour, and whole milk. It's incredibly popular and is used in a variety of pastas, pizzas, and casseroles. As a mother sauce, it has birthed other foodie favourites such as mornay sauce (béchamel with onion, cloves, Gruyere, and parmesan cheese) and soubise (béchamel with butter and caramelised onions).
One of the most popular dishes that incorporates béchamel is the bouchée à la reine. Translated to English as "the queen's morsel", this Alsatian hors d'oeurve comes in a puff pastry filled with meat (chicken breast, veal, or seafood are common) and a béchamel or béchamel derived sauce.