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In cooking, a sauce is 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 sauce recorded is garum, the fish sauce used by the Ancient Greeks.
Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, pico de gallo salsa or chutney) may contain more solid elements than liquid. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.
Sauces may be used for savory dishes or for desserts. They can be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto, or can be cooked like bechamel and served warm or again cooked and served cold like apple sauce. Some sauces are industrial inventions like Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, or nowadays mostly bought ready-made like soy sauce or ketchup, others still are freshly prepared by the cook. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.
A cook who specializes in making sauces is a saucier.
"Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking" ~ Julia Child
Sauces in French cuisine date back to the Middle Ages. There were many hundreds of sauces in the culinary repertoire. In 'classical' French cooking (19th and 20th century until nouvelle cuisine), 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. He considered the four grande 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 and now enjoys some 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:
Gravy is a traditional sauce used on roast dinner, which traditionally comprises roast potatoes, roast meat, boiled, steamed or roasted vegetables and, optionally, Yorkshire pudding, which are usually only eaten with beef. The sole survivor of the medieval bread-thickened sauces, bread sauce is one of the oldest sauces in British cooking, flavored with spices brought in during the first returns of the spice missions across the globe and thickened with dried bread. Apple sauce, mint sauce and horseradish sauce are also used on meat (pork, lamb and beef respectively). Salad cream is sometimes used on salads. Ketchup (referred to colloquially as 'tomato sauce' or 'red sauce') and brown sauce are used on fast-food type dishes. Strong English mustard (as well as French or American mustard) are also used on various foods, as is Worcestershire sauce. Custard is a popular dessert sauce. Some of these sauce traditions have been exported to former colonies such as the USA. Other popular sauces include mushroom sauce, marie rose sauce (as used in a prawn cocktail), whiskey sauce (for serving with Haggis) and cheddar sauce (as used in cauliflower or macaroni and cheese).
There are also many sauces based on tomato (such as tomato ketchup and tomato sauce), other vegetables and various spices. Although the word 'ketchup' by itself usually refers to tomato ketchup, it may also be used to describe sauces from other vegetables or fruits.
A sauce can also be sweet, and used either hot or cold to accompany and garnish a dessert.
Another kind of sauce is made from stewed fruit, usually strained to remove skin and fibers and often sweetened. Such sauces, including apple sauce and cranberry sauce, are often eaten with specific other foods (apple sauce with pork, ham, or potato pancakes; cranberry sauce with poultry) or served as desserts.
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