Sauces “Refinement”


Sauces have evolved, as civilization has. Medieval sauces, which relied on ancient ingredients, were either very spicy, sweet or sour. They were designed to mask the harsh flavors of poorly prepared, slightly spoiled foods. They consisted mainly of spicy stock made with wild herbs and unripe fruits, sometimes blended with toasted-bread crumbs.

It was not until the 17th and 18th century when more refined and aromatic preparations began to appear. It was “Marie-Antoine Carême” who began to classify sauces.

The evolution of sauces continued with “Auguste Escoffier”, it was said shortly thereafter that England had three sauces and 360 religions, while France had three religions and 360 sauces. “Le Repertoire” lists some 480 variations of sauces.

Currently, there are many classical sauces still used; however, there is a move toward lighter sauces, and an increased interest by our guests in healthier meals.


The major sauces are basically made of three components:

1. A liquid, the body of the sauce. stocks, milk, fats,

2. A thickening agent: roux, starch, liaison (cream, egg yolks,) vegetable purees, fat and sometimes blood, as used in Europe for wild game sauces,
3. The flavoring and seasoning. A subtle balance of many ingredients, none dominating.

To understand sauce making you must learn to prepare these components. You need to understand how to combine and assemble them into finished sauces.


A sauce adds to the food it is served with in four different ways:

1. Adds moisture and texture

2. Adds flavor and richness

3. Changes the appearance and contrasts

4. Creates interest and stimulates the appetite


The quality standards of a good sauce are measured by the following characteristics:

1. Thickness Consistency is given by partially thickening with roux or starch. Viscosity is the resistance of the sauce to movement, and is then achieved by reducing the sauce over a period of time.

2. Texture

Proper distribution of all particles in the sauce is given by perfect combining and homogenizing of the roux and stock. Reduction and depouillage of all impurities achieve this perfection. The sauce is given its final texture by straining through a cloth or chinois.

3. Color

The proper color is the result of its components, stock, roux and various seasonings and flavorings. The color of each sauce is part of its character.

4. Shine
This is the degree to which the sauce reflects light. The shine comes from the starch used and the process of reduction and depouillage. 5. Taste The cardinal rule of flavoring and seasoning sauces is that it should be well balanced. A well-balanced sauce aims for a subtle equilibrium of many ingredients, without a single flavor dominating. The food it will be served with must be taken into consideration.

6. Luster

Ability to reflect light. Shine is a result of depouillage, proper simmering, and the type of starch used.

Beurre Blanc is an emulsified butter sauce. The emulsion is formed by utilizing the whey (milk solids = protein.) Whey is the natural emulsifier in whole butter. An emulsion can be strengthened with the use of acid and heavy cream (increases the amount of milk solids.) It is a temperature dependent sauce! Temps over 136° will cause it to separate. To repair a separated sauce, drop the temp to 110-120° and whisk. Do not let the sauce cool to below 85°, or it will congeal. Also, remember to use a non-aluminum pan so as not to discolor or impart flavor.

Beurre Blanc: White wine and shallots are reduced to au sec, then cubed, cold, whole butter is incorporated over low heat – one pat at a time until an emulsion forms – then added faster until all is incorporated then strained. Season with white pepper and salt if needed. Optional: reduce heavy cream by ⅓ after wine/shallot reduction.

Beurre Blanc* derivatives:
• Beurre Rouge – 2 parts red wine and shallots reduced to au sec, then use the Method of Procedure (MOP) for Beurre Blanc
• Beurre Citron – The juice of lemon, lime, orange, and/or grapefruit is combined with equal parts of wine and reduced with shallots, then use MOP.
• Beurre a L’Ail – Use garlic instead of shallots

* Heavy cream may be added, and reduced by half, prior to incorporating the butter to provide stability to the sauce.
A number of other seasonings/flavorings may be used in Beurre Blanc/derivatives.
Ex: Saffron, herbs, peppers, truffles, etc.
Remember: Beurre Blanc is thickened by the whey of cold butter (and heavy cream, if used.)

Broken Butter Sauces:
• Beurre Noisette = light brown clarified butter
• Beurre Meuniere = Noisette finished with lemon juice and parsley
• Beurre Noir = “black butter” – It is actually not black, just darker than Noisette, and is taken to the smoke point. It is then finished with capers, acid (to thicken; usually lemon juice,) and parsley.


Tempering: To gradually raise the temperature of a liquid. Ladle one third of the hot into the cold and stir. Add another one third and stir. Add the tempered mixture back into the remaining hot liquid.

Seasoning: To enhance the natural flavor of a food. Ex: Salt

Flavoring: To alter the flavor of a food. Ex: Herbs

Reduction: To concentrate flavors and thicken a liquid by releasing moisture in the form of steam.

Liaison Finale: Any mixture used to thicken or bind a sauce.

Coulis = Cooked, puréed, and strained vegetable or fruit sauce.
Vegetables may be roasted, and are then cooked with flavorings and/or seasonings and liquid; purée, then strain. Ex: roasted red bell pepper coulis could be cooked with garlic/shallot, red/Burgundy wine, and fresh thyme.
Fruits may or may not be cooked; usually cooked with sugar and liquid.
Ex: raspberry coulis could be cooked with granulated/powdered sugar and Champagne.

Concassée = To remove the skin and seeds of tomatoes and brunoise

Infuse = To impart flavor into a liquid below boiling point. Ex: To infuse clarified butter with saffron (for Sauce Grimrod) we would add the saffron after the butter has been clarified and let it steep for a few minutes until it has dissolved. This way, there will not be strands of saffron visible in our Hollandaise (Grimrod.)

1. Viscosity = Thickness: resistance to movement achieved by reduction and/or thickeners

2. Color = Result of proper ingredients and cooking method,
a. Fond Brun – caramelized mirepoix and bones, red wine, and tomato product.
b. Fond Blanc – White wine and proper proportions of mirepoix (no carrots.) No caramelization, red wine, or tomato product

3. Luster = Ability to reflect light. Shine is a result of depouillage, proper simmering, and the type of starch used.

4. Opacity = Degree of transparency as a result of the gluten content in flour from the roux. 3 Degrees of transparency
a. Opaque – light does not pass through (Béchamel and Tomato)
b. Translucent – light is diffused (Véloute)
c. Transparent – light passes through (Demi-glace)

5. Texture = Smoothness via a homogenous distribution of roux and stock, achieved through tempering, simmering, and depouillage. Final texture finish achieved by straining through a chinois mousseline.



Most white sauces are thickened through gelatinization of starch. (Tomato sauce and Demi-Glace are thickened by reduction!) Starches are refined carbohydrates. The starch granules absorb moisture when added to a liquid and then heated, forming a stable paste. This yields viscosity (thickness) and consistency.

Types of thickening agents:
1. Slurry/Whitewash: Cornstarch, Arrowroot, and Tapioca. Gelatinization begins immediately.
* MOP: Combine starch with cold liquid to separate the grains of starch. Add to stock and cook gently, gradually bringing it to a simmer. Do not add to boiling stock or “dumplings” will form. Guide = 1 T per 1 Cup liquid.

a. Cornstarch: Use in a sauce that will not be reheated = lumpy. It has poor holding quality. Provides a glossy sheen and a gel like consistency

b. Arrowroot: Derived from the roots of tropical plants. It is used the same way as cornstarch and is similar in texture, appearance, and thickening power, but more expensive. It does not break down as quickly and yields a clearer finish.

c. Tapioca: From the cassava or manioc plant. It is similar to arrowroot, but less expensive. It does not give excessive elasticity to the sauce. Products that are thickened with tapioca flour are glossy and brittle

d. Other: Potato and rice starches. Flour may also be used in a whitewash. It needs double the amount of starch

2. Roux: Equal parts, by weight, of flour and fat, cooked to form a stable paste. The longer the cooking time, the more the starch granules breakdown and prevent gelatinization. Therefore, the longer the cooking time, the more starch is needed to thicken the same amount of liquid. Once added to a liquid, it must be boiled to fully develop. It can be prepared in large amounts and stored, sealed, at room temperature. There are 3 types of roux, distinguished by ingredients, cook time, color, and thickening ability.
Types of Roux:
a. White – Cooked until frothy and bubbly, used in Béchamel
b. Blond – Cooked slightly longer, takes on a little color, and becomes ivory in appearance; used in Véloute
c. Brown (Brun) – Cooked to a darker color and a nutty aroma; used in Espagnole.
d. Black – NOT BURNT. It must be cooked slowly until very dark. It is normally used in Cajun/Creole Cuisine.

*Proportions: Ounces of roux per gallon of liquid
Light Medium Heavy
Y = White 12 28 24
1.5 = Blond 18 27 36
2y = Brown 24 36 48

Problem: How much light blond roux is needed to thicken two gallons of liquid? Heavy brown?

3. Reduction: Yields a heavier viscosity and shine.
a. Stock to a Glace (90% reduction)
b. Demi-Glace (50% each brown stock, reduced by 50%)
c. Espagnole (Reduced, but also contains a Roux Brun)
d. Tomato sauce

4. Liaison: Does not thicken through gelatinization of starch; a mixture of egg yolks and heavy cream is tempered into a liquid. Combining the cream with the yolks increases the temperature of protein coagulation, making it easier to incorporate without lumping or curdling. It adds richness and smoothness with minimal thickening.

* Ratio = 1 part yolk:3 parts heavy cream

Ratio of Liaison:Liquid = 1:4

* Problem: How much is needed to thicken 1 gallon of liquid? What are the proportions in the liaison?

5. Liaison Finale: Any mixture used to thicken or bind a sauce or a soup. 6 categories
Types of Liaison Finales:

a. Starch/Slurry: Slurry added to a reduced brown stock = Jus Lié (aka: Quick Demi-Glace)
b. Beurre Manier: 1 part butter:1 part flour, kneaded together until smooth. Form into pea-sized balls and then whisk into a simmering sauce (never boiled). Used for quick thickening at the end of the cooking process. Ex: pan gravy
c. Egg yolk: Whisked, then tempered into a sauce. Never exceed 160°=curdle
d. Blood: from poultry/game or the tomalley/coral of lobster. May be combined with cream. It must be tempered and never boiled.
e. Vegetable Purée: Cooked, then puréed in blender or robot coupe

f. Fat: 3 types
1. Butter = Monter au Beurre “to lift with butter.” Used to enrich, not thicken, swirled into sauce over low heat. Butter may be plain or compound. May also be used to re-emulsify a cream-based sauce. Yields shine and flavor.
Ex: Béchamel + crayfish butter = Sauce Nantua
Véloute + lobster butter = Sauce Cardinal
2. Cream = Usually used to thicken pan juices. Add to pan, bring to a boil, and simmer to reduce.
Ex. Steak au Poivre
3. Gras = Purée 2 parts fat with 1 part heavy cream, whisk off of heat

Finishing techniques for sauces:
• Straining
• Reduction
• Liaison Finale

Seasoning and flavor balance of sauces:
• Should complement, not overwhelm
• Sauce should always taste too strong by itself
• Do not add salt until after it has been reduced

Use of wine in sauces:
• Adds flavor and richness
• Reduce by boiling to decrease volume and alcohol content and increase flavor
• Guidelines for reducing wines:
o White wine = Decreases acidity (which may cause cream to curdle)
o Red wine and Brandy = Increases perfume
o Add fortified wines at the last minute so as not to destroy the perfume. Ex: Port, Sherry, Marsala, and Madiera (as with Demi-Glace)

Holding/Storage of Sauces
• Reheat sauces to over 165° to kill bacteria
• Chill to under 45°, stirring often
• Store in labeled, covered, plastic container

The most important process of building a sauce is DEPOUILLAGE!
1. During stock production
2. During reduction
3. With any stock containing roux (Véloute, Espagnole, and Demi-Glace)

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