When starting out in the professional kitchen, whether it is via a classroom or in a real live restaurant it is best to start with the basics. When starting the “sauces” portion of education you start with the basics which are usually stocks, broths etc. You also learn the basics of building the sauces and eventually work up to the “Saucier”. The Saucier (sauce maker or sauté cook prepares sauce and warm hors d’oeuvres, completes dishes and might sauté items). A saucier is just below the sous chef, and as such is a much respected position.
There are two basic sauces that are the base of many, many classic dishes and once you master these you can greatly expand your culinary repertoire. They are the béchamel and veloute sauces.
The base of both sauces start with a “roux”. A roux is a combination of a fat, usually butter, and flour in equal proportions. The butter is melted over medium low to medium heat. The flour is sprinkled on, stirred to combine then cooked for 1-2 minutes to remove the raw taste of flour. From this point forward the basic difference is the incorporation of liquid, with a béchamel it is milk and with veloute, a stock of veal, chicken or game stock (we have made one of vegetable stock). Once you have these you can make mornay (cream sauces, cheese sauces, chaud/froid, souffles and more).
Makes about 1 1/2 cups/375ml
2 tablespoons/29g butter
2 tablespoons/16g flour
2 cups/500ml milk, warmed
Melt the the butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring over low heat for two to three minutes. Pour in all of the milk, whisking constantly to blend the mixture smooth.. Increase the heat to medium high whisking while the sauce comes to a boil. Season with a very little salt. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.
To make and extra elegant and concentrated veloute the sauce should be simmered and reduced over low heat for several hours and skimmed occasionally as it cooks. To do this you will need triple the recipe below to end up with comparable quantities.
Makes 2 cups/500ml
4 tablespoons/57g unsalted butter
1/4 cup/31g flour
4 cups/1 liter stock, warmed
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. With a whisk, stir in the flour to make a roux. Still stirring, cook for one or two minutes. Pour the stock into the pan, whisking until smooth. Increase the heat and continue to whisk until the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and moe the pan half off the heat so that the liquid simmers on only one side. A skin of impurities will form on the cool side. Remove this skin every now and then with a spoon. Cook the sauce for 40-45 minutes or it is reduced by half. You may stir in cream to reach desired consistency at this point or if you tripled the recipe as mentioned above, continue cooking and skimming until it has reduced to 2 cups/500mls or reduced by 3 times original volume.