It’s All In The Sauce

30 Dec


Sanjay Matta, is a freelance Chef specializing in French Cuisine. Having got his Diploma in “The Chef Course and Culinary Arts” at Institut de Formation (INFA), Chantilly, (France), he has been a consultant chef for Dune Beach Eco Hotel in Pondicherry, 10 Downing street pub & restaurant in Chennai to name a few.

What is it about French Food that sets it apart? The SAUCES, of course.

When one thinks of continental or European food one of the key ingredients is a sauce. “Sauce” is a French word that means “a relish to make our food more appetizing”, though its origin lies in the Latin from the word ‘salsus’ meaning salted. Sauces are not consumed by themselves; they are created to add flavour, moisture, and visual appeal, to make food look, smell, and taste better, be more easily digested and hence more beneficial. Because of the lack of refrigeration in the early days of cooking, meat, poultry, fish and seafood didn’t last long. Sauces and gravies were used to mask the flavour of tainted foods. No dish was complete without its highly flavoured and seasoned sauce. Contrary to present day preferences, the main object then seemed to be to disguise the natural taste of food so as to conceal doubtful freshness, and possibly, to demonstrate the variety of costly spices available to the host. Sometimes so many ingredients were used in a sauce it was impossible to single out any one flavour.

From medieval times European cuisine has relied on sauces to give food more character and make it tastier. Since there were hundreds of sauces in common lore, Chef Antonin Carême took it upon himself in the 19th century to classify the sauces into four families, each of which was based on a mother sauce. Over the years another base sauce was added to give the culinary world its five foundation sauces or mother sauces. Two of these go way back in the annals, with two hundred years behind them: “béchamel” and “mayonnaise”. They have lasted so long not only because they are very good, but also because they are so adaptable and provide a fine base for a considerable number of other sauces. The other three: the “veloute,” the “brune” and the “blonde” which also date back to the 18th century still provide the basis for making many modern sauces, but are no longer in vogue today.

In the early 20th century, Chef Auguste Escoffier updated this classification, replacing sauce allemande with an egg-based emulsion, and adding tomato. Escoffier’s classification is still in vogue today and familiar to all disciples of French cuisine: – Béchamel – Espagnole – Hollandaise – Mayonnaise – Tomato sauce – Velouté

It is because of this richly documented culinary history wherein the French have classified the “grandes sauces or sauces meres”, they have the honour of having their cuisine named the mother of all cuisines.

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