veloute and the 4 (5??) mother sauces
anyone who has flown in ba would have had the oppotunity to listen to stuart maconie's excellent bbc radio show - "highlife". it was here that i was introduced to the fact that lunch menus are by far the best value for money at restaurants in london; the kind of restaurants that we'd otherwise seldom go to. we thought we'd set ourselves a challenge (of course in the interests in learning and broadening our horizons); take some monday lunches to go to these restaurants in order that i could see some fine cuisine and experience food that wouldn't be on the syllabus until later in the year ...
claridges - always a great hotel, we've been before for afternoon tea and blanca's cordon bleu graduation events. it's well worth a visit if you are in london (book afternoon tea in advance to ensure you can get it ~ it's not too expensive, say £25pp). it's an incredible art deco dining room. we'd never been for dinner at the gordon ramsay restaurant, but had heard of it as being one of the best restaurants in london. it was an obvious first choice for our monday lunch. claridges link: http://www.claridges.co.uk/claridges/restaurants-and-bars/gordon_ramsay/venue/
the aperitif was a fennel veloute with mushrooms. i was interested in the veloute; both from a point of view that it was a new word to me and that it was indeed the tastiest part of the menu. initial investigations revealed that it is a sister to my little spanish croqueta, a veloute is a variation of bechamel made with a light stock instead of milk added to the roux (butter and flour). the reluctant cook (http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/veloute_sauce.htm) mentioned that veloute is in fact one of the five 'mother sauces' of french cuisine ...
that was the hook that i couldn't shake this for nights, i lay awake thinking ... what were these other sauces?
the web sent me on a merry tour of innuendo, lies and conflicting reports as to what the 'mother sauces' were ... some answers, albeit conflicting, were posed at http://www.aromontusa.com/historysauce.htm. so, sauce it seems is a french word meaning relish to make our food appetizing (this was definitely something i would need to know more about). in the absence of steingarten, i consulted the course reference book "joy of cooking" for the definitive answer. there, on page 46 (even with a post it inserted as if it was expected my research would lead me here), we have the answer in black and white:
1. bechamel (white) - commonly known as white sauce, this is usually served with meat, eggs and vegetables. it is made from flour, milk and butter. there seems to be many different theories as to the origins of bechamel, but at this point, i can't go any further.
2. veloute (blond) - only one ingredient is different; instead of milk, add a white or light coloured stock that matches the food you are serving in flavour and colour.
3. brown also called espagnole - served with meaty dishes; beef, pork etc., this takes far more time to make and use a spoon rather than a whisk to avoid the addition of air. they are a concentrate of liquids (stocks, wines) and savories (onions, ham, herbs) added alternately producing a sauce that is "incomparable for flavour and texture" ~ ok, vague enough, i'm not sure now if i've ever had one. there is a good recipe for brown sauce at http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/recipe_saucerobert.htm. little bit of trivia that i found out last week - hp brown sauce is called hp on account of the houses of parliament (on the label) ..
4. hollandaise (butter) - an emulsified sauce and a close relation to mayonnaise, though served hot. this is made from egg, clarified butter and lemon juice. most often this is served with vegetables, fish and eggs.
note: i have only listed 4 sauces above. it seems there is some confusion in the culinary world as to whether the final is actually part of the mother sauces. having seen the name, i can only assume that it was a practical joke made by some budding french chef in the 19th century that has since confused many food historians ... the fifth sauce is ...
5. tomatoe (red) - ...?)*£"
getting back to claridges, but by now too exhausted to write much more - the starter was jerusalem artichoke with pancetta, caramelised onions and a tapenade of olives. mains were neck of lamb on a ballotine of cabbage, jus of gravy, rice and puree of roasted garlic. the dessert was blackberry (zarzamora), rhubarb terrine with mint sorbet and shortbread.
it seems as though i am rather out of my depth in the world of high cuisine ~ hopefully the combination of bargain meals and some research will mean that i'm not a broken man by the end of our monday lunches ...