The question of sauces is always a puzzle, both to the average cook and to her mistress, and it cannot unfortunately be asserted that either can answer it satisfactorily. Even plain melted butter, simple as it really is, appears to present enormous difficulties, judging by the results only too frequently seen in the national sauce boats. Yet without sauces, and well-made ones at that, few, if any, entrees are-possible.
The secret of this failure is in almost all cases the insufficient cooking of the flour and butter foundations. Unless the flour is thoroughly cooked every sauce built upon this foundation will have a raw,. harsh flavour, which nothing will eradicate entirely. Flour takes from ten to twelve minutes steady cooking, at least, to remove this; but. as the average cook seldom, if ever, thinks of preparing her sauces till a few minutes before they are sent to table, it follows naturally that her sauces are all but invariably raw, and consequently seldom, if ever smooth. The cook might save herself untold trouble and much waste of time, temper, and material, if she would keep at hand (as all good French cooks do).
a couple of jars containing white and brown roux respectively. Roux is practically the French synonym for thickening, and being used in the first instance for the stronger-flavoured brown sauces, was always of a chestnut brown, or roux colour. When, however, economy in labour and material suggested the advisability of replacing in white sauces the costly process of reduction by a thickening differing only in colour from that used for the darker, fuller flavoured condiments, a roux blanc was invented; a contradiction in terms doubtless, but an intelligible •one all the same. Both are very easily prepared, and, as said before, add greatly both to the cook's success and to the saving of labour. To begin with a roux brun - put into a pan from 4oz. to 6oz. of butter, and melt this very gently over a clear, slow fire, stirring into it as it melts an equal quantity of fine, sifted flour, and allow it to cook gently over the fire till it assumes a soft, even, fawn colour; the slower it is cooked the better it will be, as if in the least hurried it will most likely burn, or, at any rate, catch, and will develope a spotty colour, and an acrid, harsh flavour, which no subsequent dosing with wine, cruet sauces, etc., will ever entirely overcome.
When it has reached the required colouring, which will probably take fully half an hour, if not more, a slight seasoning of salt should be added to it (do not overdo this, as it is only used as a preservative, the actual seasoning of the sauce being added later). This paste will keep in a cool place for several days, and may be used as required thus - take out with a spoon the amount you need (remembering that a heaped up tablespoonful will, roughly speaking, represent about 2oz.), and dilute it gradually over the fire with the stock or liquid you may choose, stirring it well till it boils, to get it perfectly smooth; as soon as it boils up it should be tammied or sieved, and receive any additions required by the recipe.
Naturally sauce prepared in this way can be made much quicker than by the ordinary method, and is the secret of the large variety of sauces used by a foreign chef, who would not dream of repeating the same sauce twice, in any menu, however long. Bather a different plan from that pursued by the ordinary good plain cook to whom brown sauce is brown sauce, and nothing more; and as such to be used indiscriminately from one end of her dinner to the other. This is really no exaggeration. I once myself beheld a highly-trained and so-called "professed cook" start her preparations for a dinner by compounding a large basinful each of white and brown sauce, i.e., the traditional" bit of butter rolled in flour," just boiled up with milk in one case, and stock in the other, and plentifully seasoned for the one with mace and nutmeg, and for the other with a combination of most of the contents of the cruet stand. The white sauce began duty with the fish, and went on to the pudding, when it was flavoured up as an accompaniment of the sweet; whilst the brown sauce started with the first entree, and literally ended with the savoury! In another case, and equally with an "experienced" cook, I once tasted the hare soup, which was the first dish in the menu, straight through to the savoury omelet.
Stock is stock, and so the contents of the soup pot had been economically utilised straight through from first to last. Now this economy, though perhaps praiseworthy (?) is in ordinary cases distinctly to be deprecated.
Good cookery acknowledges practically four foundation sauces, or sauces meres as they are called in France. Veloute and bechamel for the white, and brown and espagnole for the brown sauces. These four are the foundations of nearly all sauces, saying the butter sauces, which are a class apart.
To begin with the white sauces. Veloute or velvet sauce, as it may be Englished, is made by dissolving together 1 oz. each of butter and fine sifted flour, diluting these when perfectly cooked and blended, with half a pint or so of colourless stock made from bones, etc,; this is then tammied through a woollen cloth, or pressed through a hair sieve, to ensure its perfect smoothness, and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. In this condition it serves as a foundation for many sauces, but if it be used by itself, it is generally finished off by the addition of one or two tiny morsels of butter, stirred into it whilst boiling hot just as you lift it from the fire; or by a spoonful or two of cream, or a spoonful or so of new milk beaten up with the yolk of an egg (and in this case it is often spoken of and used as allemande, though really this sauce needs a strong flavouring of mushrooms besides the egg and milk mixture called by cooks a liaison). In plain English, foundation veloute is neither more nor less than melted butter made with colourless stock of any kind.