There are five French mother sauces.
They are velouté, espagnole, béchamel, sauce tomate (tomato), and hollandaise.
Béchamel is sometimes called white sauce.
It's the base for pasta bakes, cheese sauces, casseroles, and a variety of comforting classics.
Espagnole (AKA brown or Spanish sauce) is a rich sauce made from veal or beef stock thickened with a brown roux.
It's commonly served over roasted meats or as the base of stews and braises (such as beef bourguinon). If you reduce it into a concentrated sauce, it becomes demi-glace. Learn how to make it here.
Béchamel is made with milk or cream thickened with a roux.
It's the base of many recipes such as chicken pot pie and mac and cheese (just add shredded gruyère). Learn how to make it here.
Hollandaise is not thickened with a roux.
Béchamel and velouté use a blond roux to thicken them while espagnole uses a dark roux. Learn about the three types of roux (white, blond, and brown) here.
Hollandaise is thickened by an emulsion of egg yolks and butter.
It's typically seasoned with salt, lemon juice, and a touch of cayenne pepper. Learn how to make it here.
The original sauce tomate (from Escoffier) was flavored with salt pork.
The first step in making the sauce was to render the fat. Learn how to make it here.
Bordelaise is made with dry red wine, not béchamel.
Mornay is béchamel with cheese, soubise is with onion purée, and nantua is with crayfish butter. See all of the derivative sauces you can make with béchamel here.
Auguste Escoffier refined Carême's original list of four sauces by adding sauce tomate and hollandaise, and dropping allemande.
They are printed in Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire (a true culinary bible).
Eggs benedict is typically served with hollandaise.
That's eggs on eggs! Learn how to make it here.
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