Out of the five mother sauces, Roux is used as a thickening agent in four of them. Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole and Sauce Tomat. Only Hollandaise is not thickened by a roux, instead using an emulsion of egg yolk and butter.
Ever since the publication of Auguste Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, which added one more sauce into the mix, these provided the foundations for many dishes, as well as countless other sauces. However, there has been a recent trend towards vinaigrettes, infusions and salsas. Are we witnessing the death of the mother sauces that have been the cornerstone of cooking for a century?
Why the change of heart?
Well there is no single answer. Although a couple of major contributing factors are easily recognisable. Firstly, customers are more aware than ever of what they’re putting into their body. The trend towards healthier options is fuelling the growth of the traditional accompaniments and ingredients for these types of dishes. Secondly, people like more variety than ever before. Modern supermarkets and restaurants give people access to a global selection of ingredients and dishes, which has greatly broadened the average person’s culinary range.
There is also a wider range of readymade infusions and vinaigrettes available than ever before. New flavour combinations, and the customers’ willingness to try them, are currently more adventurous than previous decades. Some will be adopted and taken to heart while others will fade into obscurity, but the end result will be even more choice.
Do sauces need to be reclassified?
Some people believe the traditional French sauce system is now a bit outdated, as it doesn’t cover all sauce types. Maybe a system based on the foundation of sauces would be a more logical system. So, Roux based sauces would fall into a single category, while egg based sauces like Hollandaise and would be in another category. There are many potential categories, with some sauces being thickened by nuts and seeds, while others use fruits and vegetables.
Are the Roux’s days numbered?
Just like fashion and art, culinary trends come and go. Although the level of variety now available will most likely mean the mother sauces will never be as fundamental as they once were (unless you’re attending a culinary school in France), their versatility coupled with the fact they form the basis for countless other sauces and flavour combinations, means they’ll still be going strong in the decades to come.
The consumptions of infusions, salsas, vinaigrettes and the mother sauces will find a comfortable level that will fluctuate every few years according to culinary trends. Some of the mother sauces will always be more popular than others.