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These 5 Sauces Will Upgrade Your Weeknight Meal Game

Professional chef and culinary instructor Frank Proto demonstrates how to make five sauces that every chef should have in their arsenal: Béchamel sauce, Tomato sauce, brown sauce, pesto, and hollandaise.

Released on 09/20/2023


I'm Frank Proto, professional chef and culinary instructor

and today I'm gonna show you how to make five easy sauces

bechamel, tomato, brown sauce, pesto, and Hollandaise.

Having these five sauces

in your culinary tool belt will make you a better cook.

This is how to make five easy sauces.

[lively music]

Most of these recipes today are modeled

on mother sauces that we teach our culinary students.

They're a great base or jumping off point for other sauces.

So when I take my bechamel, I add cheese,

I have a Mornay sauce.

When I take my Hollandaise and I add tarragon,

I have a Bearnaise sauce.

So these mother sauces are jumping off points

for like thousands of different sauces.

Mine's not the exact version or the French version

of everything, but we're gonna hit all the high notes.

Bechamel is a basic white sauce.

There's only four or five ingredients in this.

I don't know how you can beat that.

Let's make the bechamel.

We're just gonna start on a kind

of medium heat and we're gonna add our unsalted butter.

The start of this sauce is a roux,

and basically what a roux is some sort of fat

and some sort of flour

and it's what we use to thicken things.

You'll start to smell the flour cooking.

It'll smell like baking bread.

Just cook that raw flour flavor out.

Now that our roux is cooked, you can see

that it kind of has that nice wet sand texture.

I can add my milk.

If you add hot milk to hot roux, it tends to get lumpy.

So cold milk, hot roux, and I'm gonna whisk it in.

You wanna make sure you're always whisking or stirring

so this doesn't stick to the bottom.

At this point, we're gonna whisk constantly

or use our rubber spatula to scrape along the edges.

I kind of use them in tandem

and bay leaf just gives a nice kind of background flavor.

You're not gonna taste bay leaf.

I'm gonna add just a touch of salt now.

Black pepper might be controversial.

You're having a white sauce, you're adding black pepper

and most French chefs will be like,

Oh, you use the white pepper.

I don't use white pepper.

I don't like it, so I use black pepper.

I'll deal with the spots.

It's okay.

Whisk as you go, you'll have a nice silky sauce.

And once it starts to thicken,

I'll get in there with my spatula, scrape the sides

and I'll just kinda use these both together

until I have a nice creamy sauce.

When I do this, it flows off of my spatula.

If you hear plopping, it's a little too thick.

Depending on what you're gonna use this sauce for

really determines the thickness of the sauce.

So if we're using it

for something like a croque monsieur or croque madame,

you want the sauce to be thicker,

so we'll add a little less milk.

But if we're gonna use it for mac and cheese,

we want to add a little more milk.

Good, and I'm gonna season it really well right now

because I'm gonna use this in a lasagna

and I want it to be at its full flavor.

And if you have any lumpiness and it's not super smooth,

you can strain it through a fine mesh sieve.

But for our purposes today, I'm putting it in lasagna.

I don't need to strain it.

It looks great, it tastes great.

Nothing to be strained.

Four ingredients, less than 10 minutes.

That is a bechamel sauce.

I think that we can see this in its final dish.

It is time to taste.

Let's get in there.

Match made in heaven.

What's great about the bechamel

in the lasagna is when you cut into this,

you get this nice creamy bechamel and you get bits

and bites of the vegetables and the pasta.

It's the glue that holds your lasagna together.

Bechamel is one of the easiest mother sauces to make.

You can use it for dozens

and dozens of different recipes, especially this lasagna.

[lively music]

So we're gonna make my tomato sauce.

All these ingredients are fairly simple

and it's gonna create a nice full-bodied

and rich tomato sauce.

My pan is preheated.

I'm gonna add olive oil and then I'm gonna add my pancetta.

Pork and tomatoes is a match made in heaven

and I'm just gonna let this stir

until it starts to get lightly brown.

And the fat from the pancetta is gonna flavor our oil

and flavor our sauce.

So our pancetta's starting to get light brown.

I'm gonna add my onions at this point.

I have garlic as well

but I don't want to add my garlic at the same time.

Onions have more liquid.

They take a little longer to cook, and if I add my onions

and garlic at the same time, the garlic gets burnt

before the onions start to kind of get brown.

Salt draws out moisture in the onions

and let them cook down a little bit quicker.

At this point, my onions are getting lightly light brown.

It's time to add the garlic.

So the pancetta and the onions cook

for about seven to 10 minutes.

Not that long.

It's on medium heat and the garlic's probably gonna cook

for about five or six, not that much.

We just wanna lay those base flavors down

and have them kind of mellow out.

It's time to add my tomatoes.

I rinse to get most of the tomato off.

The tomatoes and the tomato paste are fairly thick,

so the water is there to slow down the cooking process.

It's gonna let our sauce cook

over a longer time and not over reduce.

Now, some people don't traditionally like

to add tomato paste.

I like tomato paste. It gives a good texture.

The bay leaf is just a really nice kind

of herbal background.

Basil actually helps your sauce get a little sweeter.

It adds some sweetness.

The onions add sweetness.

The basil add sweetness.

The long cooking time adds sweetness, black pepper,

lots of it, and nice pinch of salt.

We can always reseason later.

So everything's in there.

We're gonna let it come to a simmer.

I don't put the lid on tight.

I'm gonna leave a little bit of space here.

So no splatter.

It's gonna allow for a little evaporation

but not too quickly.

And we're good to go.

The sauce is gonna reduce,

the flavors are gonna concentrate

and that's what's gonna give us

that nice robust, finished product.

My sauce has been on a low simmer for about two hours.

Ooh, look at that.

You can see that we've got some reduction there.

Look at it. It's reduced.

It's changed color. It's not bright red.

It's a little more brick red now.

Yeah, it's tomato-y, we can taste that pork in there.

It's got a nice kind of deep, rich, concentrated flavor

and that's what I want.

I think this will go really nice with a bowl of spaghetti.

It is time to give this a taste.

[Frank grunting]

The sauce is like deep and rich.

Come on, you can't beat that bowl of spaghetti.

[Frank chuckling]

And there you have it, my tomato sauce.

Deep, rich, delicious.

[lively music]

What exactly is a brown sauce?

I like to tell people in its most basic form,

it's kind of like a gravy, right?

It's stock, it's vegetables, it's meat and bones

and then you thicken it with the roux.

This sauce is super versatile

and you can use it in a lot of different recipes.

And we kind of start by building layers of flavor.

I'm gonna put some vegetable oil

in my pot and I'm going to add my chicken bones.

Remember, we're trying to build layers of flavor here.

I'm gonna brown my bones

and then I'm gonna brown my vegetables

and then I'll brown my tomato piece

just to give this a nice, deep, rich brown flavor.

I'll probably just use about one onion.

Whenever I do onions, I always add a little bit

of salt to get some of the moisture out of the onion.

My onions are starting to get caramelized.

I can start to add my aromatic vegetables,

like carrots and celery.

When we get to the finished sauce, we wanna taste chicken.

We wanna taste those nice roast-y brown notes.

One of the things here that I like to look out for

is some brown crustiness on the bottom of this pot.

That's called the fond, F-O-N-D.

And we want that.

We don't want it to burn.

We want it to be nice and brown.

So you want to continue to stir so we get some nice flavor.

Everything in the pot's getting to know each other.

I'm gonna add my tomato paste at this point.

It's gonna give our sauce a little body.

It's gonna add a little bit of sweetness to our sauce,

but most importantly,

it's gonna help with that nice brown caramel color.

We lightly brown as we go.

I'm using brown chicken stock here.

If you don't have brown chicken stock,

you can either make that at home

or you can just use regular chicken stock.

We'll let it simmer away happily,

getting some flavor for about 30 minutes

and then we'll move on

to the next step of building this sauce.

My sauce has been happily bubbling away

for about 30 minutes.

If you look at it,

my chicken bones are starting to break down.

My vegetables have gotten really soft.

Oh, it's nice.

So far, it tastes really good

but I want it to be a little deeper, a little richer.

And the way that I'm gonna do that is I'm gonna thicken it

with a roux.

We're gonna start out with a pan and some unsalted butter.

I want the butter to melt, and then when I put the flour in,

we'll get it nice and brown.

Add our flour to it.

Brown butter, brown flour gives us a nice nutty kind

of toasty background.

With a roux, usually it's equal amounts by weight.

So right now our roux looks good, kind of peanut buttery.

It smells nice and nutty.

It's gonna go right into our stock.

[liquid sizzling]

You can see that it's starting to get some texture

from that roux, and I love that, right?

Leave it alone now. Let it simmer away happily.

We're gonna move over here and make a sachet.

Thyme, some parsley stems, a bay leaf and some peppercorns.

Whatever you want to not have to search around for spices

in your sauce or stock, make a sachet.

It's a little bit of cheesecloth.

I make it into kind of like a burrito

and I have a lot of twine here.

Get it tied off.

You can dunk it in like it's a teabag

and just let it sit in there.

Everything's in the pot.

It only needs one more thing.

And that's time.

So we're gonna let it go for about an hour

and then we're gonna come back and see how it tastes.

Look at it.

It's brown, it's rich, and that's what I want.

It's gonna be so good.

First thing I'm gonna do is take out this sachet

and then you can just discard.

And now we're gonna strain it to get all the bits

and pieces out.

We want this to this to be a nice clear sauce.

I'm just gonna kind of move it lightly

just so that the sauce drips through.

It is beautiful, right?

It's clear, it's thick,

it's got some beautiful brown roast-y color to it.

Get me a straw.

It's plated up with a really nice piece of roast chicken.

It's time to taste.

What I love about this sauce

is that it's delicious by itself, but it's also a good start

for a lot of different types of sauces.

It gives you a lot of versatility

if you just start with this basic sauce.

[lively music]

Pesto's one of those sauces

that you can swap a lot of stuff out, right?

If I don't have basil, I'll use arugula.

If I don't have Parmesan, I use Pecorino.

So it's a very versatile sauce.

You can do a lot of different things with it.

And depending on where you are in Italy,

you'll see different versions of this.

I'm using a food processor today.

You can use a mortar and pestle, which is super traditional

or a blender if you want.

Mortar and pestle's a little on the chunkier side

whereas a blender makes it a little too smooth.

But I find that the food processor gets me the best texture.

I'm gonna add some parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

I'm gonna add some pecorino.

Couple of cloves of garlic, walnuts are in there.

Now, traditionally, we are going to use a pine nut for this.

Walnuts might not be traditional

but I like them better here.

And it's a great approximation of the pine nut.

Walnuts are a little cheaper, a little easier to find.

You use them in a lot more recipes than just pesto.

Some salt and pepper as well.

And then we're going to add some oil.

We don't want this to be wet.

We want it to hold together as a paste.

This nice kind of spreadable thick consistency

is where I want it.

It's really good.

One of the things I like to serve pesto with is gnocchi

and that's what I got here and it's time to taste.

That sauce.

[Frank speaking in foreign language]

It's good.

And that is my pesto served with a little bit of gnocchi.

It's fresh, it's delicious, it's easy.

You can't go wrong.

Make yourself some pesto.

[lively music]

If you've ever been to brunch and you've had eggs benedict,

you've had Hollandaise sauce, but what is it?

Most people probably don't even know what goes in it.

So I'm gonna demystify that for you today.

It's super simple with a little bit of technique.

First thing I wanna is separate my eggs.

I just wanna use the yolks.

So just separate your whites from your yolks.

What I'm gonna add to my yolks right now is a little bit

of water, a little bit of lemon juice.

When I squeeze my lemons, I always put this cut side

against my hand and I give it a squeeze

and you can see that it runs down my finger.

Start out with some salt and pepper.

So now we take this whole assembly

and we put it on our double boiler.

A double boiler is for gentle cooking.

You can melt chocolate like this as well

but for the most part, we just want nice, gentle heat.

But the last thing we want is scrambled eggs.

And if I see that it's cooking a little too quick,

I could take it off the flame,

let it cool for a second or two, and then go back on.

I know it's ready to add the butter when I see

that my bubbles are really small

and my yolks have gotten really thick.

So you can see that we're getting a nice ribbon there.

And that's what I'm looking for.

Take my towel.

I'm just gonna put it over the pot.

So this not only holds my bowl in there and keeps it stable,

it also keeps my sauce warm, right?

We're just gonna whisk in our butter

and drizzle it in slowly.

This is an emulsified sauce.

You're putting two things together

that don't normally go together.

Basically, oil and water.

If you do it all at once,

it's basically scrambled eggs floating around in butter

and we don't want that.

I have some milk solids here and butter fat.

Traditionally, people will clarify their butter

where they're just using the fat of the butter.

But the milk solids to me have a little flavor

and I want some of that flavor in there.

Whisk so that we keep some air in there

'cause we want it to be a nice light, creamy sauce.

All right, butter is in.

Let's taste it for seasoning.

A little more pepper, just a pinch of salt

and a little fresh lemon juice and we'll be good.

The sauce is so good.

I need to find something to put this on stat.

I luckily found a nice plate

of steamed asparagus to put my Hollandaise sauce on.

The great thing about this sauce is that it's buttery,

a little lemony, light and fluffy and delicious.

And it goes well with so many different things.

We made five sauces today.

We made bechamel, tomato sauce, brown sauce,

pesto and Hollandaise.

And if you can make these five sauces and get these down,

there's nothing you can't do in the kitchen.

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