Mother Sauces

Mother Sauces: Tomato

Classic French cooking has a long established tradition of using five sauces that pair with specific traditional ingredients. They are called mother sauces. If you were going to make a gratin of potatoes or macaroni and cheese, you would make a Béchamel sauce. If you added salt, pepper, nutmeg and Gruyere cheese to it a Mornay sauce was created – a child of Béchamel.

The five types are Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato. We count Mayonnaise and Vinaigrette in with the Hollandaise since all three are emulsions of an acid base with fat that can be the start for thousands of variations.

Classifying something as a mother sauce is useful because it makes it easier to keep track of the variations. The French have a highly regarded cuisine, but so do the Chinese, Indians, Mexicans, Japanese, Italians and, really, every region and ethnicity throughout the world.

Sometimes, depending on what culinary tradition you were following, the classic mother sauce was made with rigorously chopped celery, carrots and onions (called a mirepoix), and aromatics. An aromatic could include almost anything like mushrooms, peppers, garlic, bacon, etc.

Defining specific techniques and defining basic preparations, such as what the mother sauces are, is what makes varying from these standards so important and interesting.

Today there are a lot more types of mother sauces, including jiangs. The Jiang category includes all kinds of legume based pastes, soy sauce, shoyus, misos, fermented grain or nut pastes. It also includes other protein rich sauces typically made from animals as in fish sauce, garums, and beef sauces.

The way we make any sauce today often ends up using concentrated essences and other ingredients that are easier and faster made with things like sous-vide cookers or pressure cookers. But they can also include short or long fermented ingredients based on jiang such as soy sauce or a fish sauce as mentioned above.

We also consider pestos, barbecue and dessert sauces as mother sauces.


Types

  • Béchamel
  • Velouté
  • Espagnole
  • Holllandaise
  • Tomato
  • Mayonnaise
  • Vinaigrette
  • Pesto
  • Barbecue
  • Dessert sauces
  • Jiangs

All of these sauces can actually be turned into something you are already familiar with. They are typically easy, and usually tastier than store bought. But you can make some part or all of them to make them your own. Or just add a dash of soy sauce or fish sauce to a store bought one.



We will explain how to make and use these all of them, classic and unique sauces, condiments and other things we consider essential items to have in your larder. You’ll learn how to cook and ferment everything as we go along, or at least become a better informed eater.

The French perfected the food preparation protocol of mise-en-place. It’s not like they invented it. It’s that they codified it, and described it. Everyone was pretty much taught that to make a basic Béchamel sauce you made a flout and butter mix and cooked that with milk.

The traditional French mother sauces are great classic sauces, but cuisine is being invented, reinvented and recycled all the time. We know so much more about what cultures around the world have been doing, sometimes for thousands of years, that it’s clear that the French way only way to create a mise-en-place.

Asian basic sauces including miso and soy sauces are now incorporated into all types of cuisines.


Mother Tomato

Here is how we make our classic tomato mother sauce. Remember that the more things a mother or base sauce contains, the less adaptable it will be. If you add meat or a specific spice to it, you can’t use it for a vegetarian dish or something that just doesn’t taste good with that spice.

Our tomato sauce is not very much like the French original but it’s uses are incredibly varied. You could just as easily make a concassé or a coulis from fresh tomatoes and herbs – we consider those more as vinaigrettes or pan sauces – but this sauce works for us.

The use of peppers makes this an ideal stepping off point for Cajun, Creole and other cooking styles, including Italian, Spanish and Indian cuisine.

Adding proteins such as peanuts, vegetable protein (TVP) make this a quick and fast meal sauce to have on hand. You could add ground meat or shrimp this, but we’ll exlan those sauces in upcoming posts.

Use toasted almonds or sunflower seeds for an equally tasty sauce. If you to go bean free skip the textured vegetable protein and use dehydrated tomato flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, or a cup of chopped carrots or parsley.

Regardless of whether you choose to add meat or a fish stock or lots of mushrooms, it will be tasty and last at least a few weeks. If the fennel bothers you add basil or some other spice. The variations are almost endless.

Remember that you can’t remove meat or anchovies or cheese or rosemary from a sauce, but you can always add things.


Dried fermented soybeans or shih, make a great base taste for tomato and other sauces. We make out own. You can buy them readily online on in Asian grocery stores. These are plain. Some are already seasoned. If you use pre-made seasoned ones, rinse and soak well before frying unless they suit the dish you are making.

Tomato Mother Sauce

  • 1 cup or 3.1 ounces or 88 grams TVP or protein substitute
  • 1 small or 1.5 ounces or 45 grams chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup or 125 ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 TB or 1.4 ounces or 40 grams fermented black beans (shih)
  • 1 cup or 250 ml water or stock
  • 1 cup or 60 grams dried celery
  • 1/4 cup dried garlic chips
  • 1 cup or 84 grams dried peppers
  • 2 cups sake, white wine or stock
  • 2 TB dried oregano
  • 6 3/4 cups or 53 ounces or 1500 grams crushed plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup or 60 ml extra virgin olive oil

To make the sauce cook the textured protein and chopped yellow onion in the regular olive oil with the fermented beans and fennel seeds until golden brown. Add the water, then the dried peppers, garlic and onions. Add more sake, wine or stock and simmer for ten minutes.

Add tomatoes and oregano and simmer another 15 minutes, gently. Add a very small amount of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, although it is not necessary. Add the extra virgin olive oil and any fresh, chopped parsley you like at the end after removing from the heat. Usually, we use a cup of parsley.

Put this tomato on sauce on rice, or spread on a pizza crust with cheese, or eat with toast on on vegetables. Mix it with beans and you have chili. Tempeh curry or parmesan with or without dairy or nut cheese is tasty!

We will publish several other basic recipes for tomato sauces. Each one will serve to illustrate why sauces typically vary depending on what you are going to cook in them, what ingredients you have at your disposal, what you are putting them on, blending them with, or how you will finish a dish right before serving.

Variations coming up: Crispy shrimp tomato sauce, black garlic tomato sauce, Creole cooking sauce and a mushroom miso tomato sauce.


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Third, Make Corn Miso

This miso is a very special miso for us. We use it not only with fresh seafood, especially shellfish and grilled vegetables, but also for several dishes we grew up on. These include gachas with rabbit or fresh bacon, polenta cakes fried in thick green olive oil and cloves of garlic, and Argentina style harina tostada in the morning with toasted almonds and fresh figs.

A little sumac and mashed garbanzo beans makes a great falafel type fritter with chopped pickles and hot sauces and creamy tahini, as well as a type of pancake that we used to eat in the Summer with grilled peppers and basil. We didn’t use corn miso back then, but this miso now gives us a reason to look forward to Summer when we tear through corn fields like raccons, knowing exactly when the corn milk is ready.

We make lots of corn based things with koji. Corn miso, corn amasake, corn doboroku, corn sauces like soy sauce, and corn shio-koji because we love corn. We consider it a local treasure in the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. It grows pretty much anywhere in the United States.

Actually, you can’t get better corn or soybeans or a whole lot of other grains and beans than those grown in the USA. Even the rice grown in the USA is spectacular. Check out our growing resources list.

When you can buy organic pre-made masa harina (corn treated with lime) it makes things very easy. But you don’t even have to nixtamalize corn to use it. Koji and other microbes are all too happy to chomp down on corn to make it digestible for humans.

We can grow koji on corn cobs – listen up food wasters – and cornmeal itself. We didn’t come up with the later idea. It’s been down for hundreds of years throughout certain areas of Asia. We just think we may have elevated the practice to a higher level. Corn koji was in the past considered inferior. It’s not at all.

First, let’s make this very simple and incredibly versatile miso. We’ll post some more corn miso recipes in the next day or two.

Corn Rose Miso

Corn Rose Miso is one of the easiest misos you can make. You can use regular rice koji instead of jasmine rice koji. You can even use corn water or fresh corn put in a blender instead of amasake.

Note that we make only one quart of this miso at a time. This smells so good you’ll want to eat it while you are making it. You can use lavender or another flower essence if you prefer, or leave it out all together.

  • 1.5 cups/425 grams amasake or water
  • 2 cups/322 grams jasmine rice koji or other rice koji
  • 2 cups/234 grams organic masa harina
  • 2 TB/35 grams fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp rose water

Heat amasake or water to 110 to 135F but not above. When you are sure the temp is below 135F add the rice koji (ground into a powder if you like) and the organic masa harina. If you want a sweeter, faster miso add another cup/100 grams of ground rice koji and a little warm salted water.

Mix everything together well as if you were making dough. The miso should not be crumbly. You should be able to roll it out into balls that aren’t hard. Add a TB of warm water and a pich of salt several times if necesary to loosen the miso up, but remember that removing liquid from a miso can be nearly impossible.

Cover it very well and let it sit for a while and come back and add more water then instead of forcing it. You will need these types of adjustment skills for the more complicated corn misos and other misos we’ll walk you through. The detailed miso steps descriptions will be posted by then as well.

Sprinkle rose essence over miso and pack into a well cleaned wide mouth jar a little at a time to prevent air pockets. The jar must be very clean. Rinse out with a little water and sprinkle with salt if you aren’t sure. Make sure the jar doesn’t have any cracks in the rim or you cut get badly cut.

Place a small weight inside the quart jar and cover with parchment or a thick plastic bag cut into pieces. Screw on top. Check at a week. It should be done in 30 days, but you could check it and taste it at two weeks if you like – especially if you added more koji.

Don’t ferment over 72F. If you do, check it every few days and chill if it starts to sour or smell off. But you should avoid that from happening. Refrigerate when it’s ready. You should see a little pooling of a yellow brown liquid called tamari on top. Mix it in. Or lick it off when no one is looking.

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