The five French mother sauces as described by Auguste Escoffier are Tomato, white (Bechamel), brown (Espagnole), Hollandaise and Veloute (seasoned thickened stocks/jus). It takes time, discipline and practice to create these masterpieces. However, once completed, you have opened up a world of flavor pairings and creative thinking in your kitchen. Adding to each of these sauces, you can create deeper sauces. If you add an orange reduction to Hollandaise, you have Maltaise sauce (oranges grown on Malta) which goes very well with roasted duck. If you add a chopped tarragon and white wine vinegar reduction, you have the classic Bearnaise!
Using these disciplined backgrounds with some personal creativity, you can have a lot of fun. Tonight, an Italian friend and I experimented with Alfredo (Bechamel+parmegiano) and added a little chopped black truffle and white truffle oil. We made some fresh ricotta gnocchi and added diced lobster. We loved it so much that we sold it as a special in the restaurant....for $29 an entree. These are all simple ways to take basic cooking methods and giving them a little lift. Another great lobster dish would be Butter Poached Lobster with a champagne vanilla beurre blanc. Start with a simple beurre blanc by reducing white wine and finely diced shallots, only this time use cahmpagne instead of white wine and throw a vanilla bean (sliced the long way in half) in the reduction. This will draw out the flavor of the vanilla bean. Once you "monte la beurre, remove the vanilla bean and remove the "speckled" interior (add this back to the sauce). This is a sure way to create an innovative to your dinner party.