Last time we looked at the traditional mother sauces (insert link to previous article) that make up the foundation of French cooking. While the influence of French cuisine on the modern culinary scene is undeniable, it is becoming increasingly outdated. While traditional sauces are much more rigid, our list of modern mother sauces focuses on techniques and key flavors over rigid recipes. Also, the traditional mother sauces are essential culinary theory, while our list is an opinion based on personal years of culinary experience and dominant food trends. The recent wave of fusion dishes and modern techniques have created new foundational sauces, so join us as Dr. Foodle explores the modern mother sauces.
Just like in the traditional mother sauces, tomato sauces are a cornerstone of many dishes across lots of different styles of food. At its essence, tomato sauce is very little else other than some sauteed vegetables, typically onions, celery, and carrots – with tomatoes filling out the vast bulk of the sauce and adding the liquid element. Because tomatoes are slightly bitter when raw, the sauce is typically cooked down and reduced to add a level of sweetness as while as providing an ideal consistency. Each recipe will call for its own ingredients to add different complementary flavors, while tomato sauce is often used as a base in many other types of sauces. It’s hard to a find a restaurant that doesn’t stock some form of tomato sauce.
A reduction sauce is a very broad term and speaks to a specific technique in creating a sauce as opposed to a distinct flavor profile. Reductions are increasingly popular in restaurants all over the world, and while they are typically more expensive to create than other sauces, the rich flavor profile, and thick consistency make reductions a delicious addition to many meals. Reductions are made from a base of ingredients that can range from a vegetable base to a base of creams and cheese. Making a reduction sauce involves heavily cooking flavors out of the base and incorporating a liquid base (stocks and wines are common liquid elements) and leaving to simmer until very little liquid is left and the sauce has thickened. Reductions are then filtered through a fine mesh to ensure all the solid matter is removed and served over many dishes. Many steak sauces, dessert sauces, and hot sauces are created through the reduction process.
Most cream-based sauces are derivatives of bechamel (insert link to previous article), but the purity of a simple roux, milk, and cream has been pushed to the side. Most cream sauces still use a roux as a thickening agent (some might use a reduction technique, but as creams scald easily at high temperatures, roux is often preferred) and heavy cream and milk as a base, many chefs will add a variety of other ingredients to add flavor the relatively bland bechamel. For example, alfredo sauce is created by adding garlic and parmesan cheese to a bechamel. Other recipes will add fresh herbs while some will call for sharp cheeses. Many dessert sauces will incorporate sweet flavors and fruit into cream sauces as well.
As globalization has increased the amount of influence cultures have on one another, curries have entered into the modern culinary world in a big way. The bold, unique, and delicious flavors of traditional Indian curries have been experimented with and added to countless international dishes. In essence, a curry is created by sautéing onions with garlic and ginger and then adding a spice mixture that varies from place to place, with curry powder being the essential flavor while coconut milk and/or other liquids are added as the liquid base. Citrus juice, such as lemon or lime juice, is often used to deglaze the onion and spice mixture. Chefs from all over the planet have put their own take on it by incorporating unique flavors, fresh herbs, and unconventional liquid bases to give curry their own spin. Curry is an incredibly diverse sauce and truly unique in taste.
Soy and Ginger Sauces
Another sauce to benefit from globalization is soy sauce. A staple sauce in many Asian countries for ages, soy sauce has become a global favorite. Many sauces will use soy sauce as a base and add various fresh ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, and scallions, among many others, to add more distinct flavors. Very often, sweeteners like honey will be added to balance out the sharp, salty flavor of soy sauce while also providing a thicker consistency. Soy sauce has truly found its way into kitchens all across the planet and offers a distinct and delicious flavor to many sauces.
This is a very small sample of essential sauces in the modern culinary scene. Let us know in the comments below what you think, and more importantly, what you consider to be the modern mother sauces.