French Sauces You Can Easily Master

Do you know the two French sauces that make up the basis for many other sauces? If you said mayonnaise and bechamel, you got it right. If you can learn to make these French sauces, you can branch out from there and you will soon be an accomplished saucier.

Keys to Making Homemade Mayonnaise

I know, I know, mayonnaise comes from a jar doesn't it? Not really. Many French people think nothing of whipping up a homemade mayonnaise as the occasion arises. If you make your own, follow these tips carefully:

Have everything at room temperature before you begin.

Use only the freshest eggs possible, and use the mayonnaise within 48 hours.

Add the oil very slowly. Imagine a snail and you've got the right rhythm. Start drop, by drop, and slowly, very slowly build up to a thin drizzle. No need to go any faster.

Here's the basic recipe:

- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 cup oil (safflower, corn, olive, or other)

Place the yolk in a deep, heavy mixing bowl that won't move across the counter (you need both hands for the next step).

Using a hand mixer, beat in mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Very slowly (remember very slowly) pour in the oil. Watch in amazement as the mixture turns to mayonnaise.

Now that you know how to make mayonnaise you're ready to get started on these tasty sauces:

Sauce Aioli - This is a divine garlic mayonnaise. Try it with fish, boiled eggs, or steamed vegetables. Even French fries!.
Sauce Rémoulade - Mayonnaise with mustard, chopped capers, anchovies, pickles and herbs. If you eat raw celery root in France, it will most likely be served in a remoulade sauce.
Sauce Tartare - Mayonnaise with chopped egg yolks, chives, pickles and capers. Often served with fried fish.
Sauce Verte - It's not green because it's gone bad, it's green because you've added tarragon, parsley, chervil, or any of your favorite herbs.

Master Bechamel Sauce

Rather unlike mayonnaise, home cooks here in France might be tempted to buy a packaged bechamel sauce mix. However, when you have a look at the list of ingredients, you've got to wonder what it has to do with bechamel sauce which need only contain flour, butter, and milk, plus a bit of seasoning. Packaged bechamel is nothing like homemade, which tastes so much more flavorful and is actually very easy to make.

Here's the basic recipe:

- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- pinch of nutmeg, salt, and pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low to medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and mix well. Continuing stirring over low heat for two minutes.

Using a whisk, and continually whisking, add the milk in small quantities - about two tablespoons at a time. Make sure that you fully incorporate the liquid before adding more - this way you will get a smooth sauce.

After you've added about half the milk, pour in the rest and give the mixture a good whisking. Continue to heat the sauce on low to medium heat, whisking often. Cook just to below boiling until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and whisk in nutmeg, salt and pepper.

From the basic bechamel comes a plethora of sauces. Just a few examples

Sauce Mornay - A béchamel sauce made with cheese. Often served with steamed vegetables and fish.
Sauce Soubise - A béchamel made with onions. Good with grilled meats.
Sauce Verte - Different from the green mayonnaise above. White sauce with lots of fresh herbs added.
Sauce Cardinal - A red sauce flavored with lobster butter and sometimes a pinch of cayenne. Served on fish.

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About The Author, Kim Steele
Kim Steele is the author and designer of Easy French Food, a website where you will find many more French sauce recipes, including this Aioli Recipe and this Onion Sauce Recipe. Stop by for a fun exploration of French food and culture - perfect if you're dreaming of a vacation in France.