Mother sauces get a makeover

 tahini sauce

If you've read any older, classic cookbooks, you are familiar with the mother sauces: béchamel, velouté, espagnole, sauce tomat, and hollandaise. These sauces can seem heavy and bland for modern diners. That's why chefs like Travis Lett of Los Angeles restaurant Gjelina adapt these classics to make them fit into contemporary cuisine. The NY Times reports on what chefs like Lett consider to be the "new" mother sauces

Just as the classic sauces provide endless opportunities for riffs and variations - Add shallots, chervil, peppercorn and tarragon to hollandaise to get béarnaise or stir grated Gruyére into béchamel to get Mornay - these new sauces also have ample room for tweaking to suit your tastes.

The five sauces - herb salsa, pepper salsa, yogurt sauce, pesto and tahini -  appear "over and over again on menus and in cookbooks that feature the kind of vegetable-heavy, flavor-dense food that cooks and eaters favor today," according to the article. Master these sauces and you'll have the basis for dozens of variations to liven up your cooking.

Photo of Tahini sauce with garlic and lemon from Serious Eats by J. Kenji López-Alt and Michael Solomonov

6 Comments

  • Rinshin  on  8/4/2016 at 12:20 PM

    In NYT "“The problem with the classic mother sauces,” according to the chef Michael Solomonov, who cooks modern Israeli food at his restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, “is that most of them are made with roux. Now, roux is out. Nobody uses it, except when you’re making macaroni and cheese.” I don't agree with this. Roux is still favored in certain places. I can't imagine New Orleans cooking without roux for example. Roux is one of the favorite sauces for the home cooked meals in Japan.

  • ellabee  on  8/4/2016 at 5:45 PM

    My guess is that when Solomonov says "nobody," he's referring to restaurants. I'm not sure how one would make a souffle without a roux; but maybe few restaurants are featuring souffles these days; clearly Zahav isn't.

  • ellabee  on  8/4/2016 at 6:26 PM

    The article frames these basic sauces as "new" vs. "old". To me a more useful and accurate distinction is French (which is identified as the source of the "old") vs. not: the many other very old traditions/cuisines and regions the "new" sauces represent, which the article doesn't mention: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Mexican, at a minimum.

  • helskitchenvt  on  8/5/2016 at 12:33 PM

    I think maybe something got lost in the reporter's translation - I suspect the real point the chef was trying to make is that home cooks can have a stable of a few sauces that go really well with their favorite ingredients, and then nudge them in different directions to create new dishes for dinner. Which takes a great classical technique (French and otherwise) and frees it up to match any palate. (And I totally use a roux - the roux will never go out of style)

  • helskitchenvt  on  8/5/2016 at 12:41 PM

    Which is I guess is a positive spin on saying "yeah it annoys me too that it's old vs. new and ignores the longstanding culinary traditions outside of France."

  • ellabee  on  8/5/2016 at 3:09 PM

    Dialing back my criticism a bit, now that I've taken a look at the recipes themselves, which credit the cuisines and traditions the basic sauces and variations represent -- and they're global. [Link is in the article; I hesitated to use up my NYT clicks so early in the month, but frankly would rather read about sauces than much else going on in the news...]

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