Much of the former superiority of French cookery over that of other nationalities was due to their ingenious methods of preparing appetizing sauces for their various dishes.
Some of these sauces are quite simple, and readily made, while others are more elaborate, and require more time in their preparation.
Most sauces are made by cooking together equal quantities of butter and flour for the body of the sauce, and then adding a seasoning and a liquid, cooking these together also with the thickening, or body, until well corporated.
White sauces are the simplest, and most frequently used; and derive their name from the fact that the flour in the thickening is not allowed to color. Milk is always used in white sauces, while in brown sauces, stock or gravy is used, which also tends to make the sauce a darker color.
For white sauces the ingredients are, butter, flour and milk, in the proportion of 1 tablespoon each of flour and butter to half a pint of milk.
To make a white sauce, first put the milk in a stewpan, and let it heat to the scalding point. In another pan put the flour and butter, and let them melt, stirring occasionally until the flour and butter are well mixed together. Bring it to a bubble, and then add the hot milk gradually, and stir all together, until the whole is smoothly thickened. Then season and set aside and allow it to simmer for a few minutes.
Brown sauces are made by cooking the butter and flour together, constantly stirring all the while to prevent burning, but until the flour is well browned. As browned flour does not have the thickening effect that unbrowned flour has, it is necessary to use a heaping tablespoon of flour to a tablespoon of butter and half a pint of the gravy or stock used as a liquid.
"Piquante" sauces are those which contain vinegar in some form. For example, a tablespoon of vinegar added to finely chopped pickles makes a "poivrade" sauce, and this, or finely chopped pickles with mustard are good sauces to serve with pork chops or with mutton cutlets.
Various other sauces, most of which start with either a white or a brown sauce, derive their names from the manner in which they are prepared, or the ingredients which they contain.
When milk cannot be had for a white sauce, water may be used instead, in which case the sauce becomes known as a drawn-butter sauce. Using cream instead of milk, makes a cream sauce; while a bechamel sauce is composed of equal parts of cream, and either chicken stock, or veal stock.
Breaking the yolks of eggs into a white sauce makes it a "polette"; while a good sauce for fish is made by adding to a white sauce, either a few chopped oysters, or hard-boiled eggs, or capers, or chopped parsley. Capers added to white sauce makes a good sauce for boiled mutton. Chopped mushrooms added to white or brown sauce, makes a mushroom sauce. An olive sauce is made by adding chopped olives to a brown sauce; etc., etc.
In making sauces do not simply stir the flour and butter into an already hot liquid, but first combine the flour and butter together, and then add the hot liquid, gradually to the mixture. This prevents the sauce from being lumpy.
The following will be of use in determining the sauces to be served with various meats:
Bechamel sauce - Serve with cutlets, or with small broiled meats. Black currant jelly - Serve with venison.
Bread sauce - Serve with roast chicken, or with game.
Caper sauce - Serve with boiled mutton, or with boiled fish.
Cranberry jelly - Serve with roast turkey.
Cream, or White sauce - Serve with fried chicken, croquettes, cauliflower, stewed carrots, and various vegetables.
Grape jelly - Serve with venison, or with roast meats.
Hollandaise sauce - Serve with boiled, or broiled fish.
Horseradish sauce - Serve with boiled ham, roast beef, roast veal, roast pork, grilled steak, fillet of beef.
Lemon butter - Serve with fried fish, or with broiled meats.
Maitre d'hotel sauce - Serve with broiled steak, chops, cutlets, or baked fish.
Mint sauce - Serve with roast lamb.
Mushroom sauce - Serve with broiled steak, fillet of beef.
Mustard sauce - Serve with roast beef, corned beef, roast ham, or boiled ham.
Parsley sauce - Serve with boiled, broiled or baked fish.
Red currant jelly - Serve with roast mutton, stewed rabbit, or with game.
Tartare sauce - Serve with cold boiled tongue, fried smelt, cod, or halibut.
Tomato butter - Serve with broiled meats.
Tomato sauce - Serve with chops, croquettes, cutlets, or with fried oysters.
Vinaigrette sauce - Serve with fish or with calf's head.