In cooking a sauce is a liquid, cream, or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsa, meaning salted. Possibly the oldest recorded European sauce is garum, the fish sauce used by the Ancient Greeks; while doubanjiang, the Chinese soy bean paste is mentioned in Rites of Zhou in 3rd century BC.
Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, pico de gallo salsa or chutney) may contain more solid components than liquid. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.
Sauces may be used for sweet or savory dishes. They may be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto, cooked and served warm like bechamel or cooked and served cold like apple sauce. Sauces may be freshly prepared by the cook, especially in restaurants, but today many sauces are sold premade and packaged like Worcestershire sauce, HP Sauce, soy sauce or ketchup. Sauces for salad are called salad dressing. Sauce made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.
A chef who specializes in making sauces is called a saucier.
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In traditional British cuisine, gravy is a sauce used on roast dinner. The sole survivor of the medieval bread-thickened sauces, bread sauce is one of the oldest sauces in British cooking. Apple sauce, mint sauce and horseradish sauce are used on meat (usually on pork, lamb and beef respectively). Redcurrant jelly, mint jelly, and white sauce may also be used. Salad cream is sometimes used on salads. Ketchup and brown sauce are used on fast-food type dishes. Strong English mustard is also used on various foods, as is Worcestershire sauce. Custard is a popular dessert sauce. Other popular sauces include mushroom sauce, marie rose sauce (as used in a prawn cocktail), whisky sauce (for serving with haggis), Albert sauce (horseradish sauce to enhance flavour of braised beef) and cheddar sauce (as used in cauliflower or macaroni and cheese). In contemporary British cuisine, owing to the wide diversity of British society today, there are also many sauces that are of British origin but based upon the cuisine of other countries, particularly former colonies such as India.
Sauces in French cuisine date back to the Middle Ages. There were many hundreds of sauces in the culinary repertoire. In cuisine classique (roughly from the end of the 19th century until the advent of nouvelle cuisine in the 1980s), sauces were a major defining characteristic of French cuisine.
In the early 19th century, the chef Marie-Antoine Carême created an extensive list of sauces, many of which were original recipes. It is unknown how many sauces Carême is responsible for, but it is estimated to be in the hundreds. The cream sauce, in its most popular form around the world, was concurrently created by another chef, Dennis Leblanc, working in the same kitchen as Carême. Carême considered the four grandes sauces to be espagnole, velouté, allemande, and béchamel, from which a large variety of petites sauces could be composed.
In the early 20th century, the chef Auguste Escoffier refined Carême's list of basic sauces in the four editions of his classic Le Guide Culinaire and its abridged English translation A Guide to Modern Cookery. He dropped allemande as he considered it a variation of velouté, and added hollandaise and sauce tomate, defining the five fundamental "mother sauces" still used today:
A sauce which is derived from one of the mother sauces by augmenting with additional ingredients is sometimes called a "daughter sauce" or "secondary sauce." Most sauces commonly used in classical cuisine are daughter sauces. For example, Béchamel can be made into Mornay by the addition of grated cheese, and Espagnole becomes Bordelaise with the addition of reduction of red wine, shallots, and poached beef marrow.
In the mid-20th century, a specialized implement, the French sauce spoon, was introduced to aid in eating sauce in French cuisine, enjoying increasing popularity at high-end restaurants.
Italian sauces reflect the rich variety of the Italian cuisine and can be divided in several categories including:
There are thousands of such sauces, and many towns have traditional sauces. Among the internationally well-known are:
Sauce béarnaise or Béarnaise sauce made of clarified butter and egg yolks flavored with tarragon shallots and chervil.
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