` The Sixth Sauce - Olive Oil Times

The Sixth Sauce

Oct. 23, 2012
Angela Bell

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When Marie-Antonin Carême, the father of French haute cui­sine, wrote in his 19th cen­tury cook­book about the four pri­mary fam­i­lies of French sauces, he had no idea that 200 years later his teach­ings would still be the foun­da­tion on which clas­si­cally taught pro­fes­sional chefs would be trained.

Yes, the pro­lific writer and first celebrity chef iden­ti­fied four mother sauces, not five as we know them today. For Carême, the mother (or some­times called lead”) sauces of French clas­si­cal cui­sine, from which all other small sauces began, were Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole and Allemande.

Allemande? Not sur­pris­ingly, Allemande, a Velouté-based sauce with egg yolks, lemon and cream has since lost its place as head of the fam­ily. And so it should, accord­ing to Auguste Escoffier, another French king of chefs who later wrote of the five lead­ing sauces: Espagnole, Velouté, Béchamel, Tomato and Hollandaise, as we know them today.

Later, the French intro­duced nou­velle cui­sine and a host of but­ter sauces includ­ing the ever pop­u­lar beurre blanc. Even so, the French mother sauces of Escoffier have remained the same for hun­dreds of years — that is until now.

Over a span of two hun­dred years since the pub­li­ca­tion of Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire, gour­mands have gone from grand din­ing halls and ban­quet tables over­flow­ing with meat dishes to one hun­dred-course extrav­a­gan­zas with lus­trous sauces and lav­ish cen­ter­pieces, to the cur­rent four-course menu, California cui­sine, sus­tain­able foods, and finally to anti-aging and mol­e­c­u­lar gas­tron­omy.

Sauces have been used for cen­turies, first most likely to hide the taste of spoiled food, then to enhance color, fla­vor and tex­ture, next as an essen­tial ele­ment for con­tem­po­rary plat­ing tech­niques and now, most often to allow the food to shine through all on its own.

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Professional chefs, home cooks and gas­tronomes have replaced Mornay, Bordelaise, and Hollandaise, made from roux, milk, beef stocks, and clar­i­fied but­ter with aioli, salsa verde, romesco, pesto, vinai­grettes, and purees whizzed and whisked with what else but olive oil. The best con­tem­po­rary sauces for the best ingre­di­ents, local and sim­ple, are based on sea­son­ings, fresh herbs, and aro­mat­ics with a glossy sea­soned driz­zle of extra vir­gin olive oil.

Alice Waters, inspired by Parisian mar­kets and French bistros, is widely rec­og­nized as the first chef to intro­duce the American palate to fresh, local sus­tain­able ingre­di­ents. If Chef Waters finds it nec­es­sary when trav­el­ing to carry her own olive oil, I think it is time to ele­vate extra vir­gin olive oil to its proper place, to that of a clas­sic mother sauce — to the head of her own fam­ily.

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