The saying goes that "The French have a hundred sauces to disguise a few foods - and Americans have a hundred foods disguised only by white sauce!"
It is true that many great gourmet dishes involve a special sauce, which used to take hours to prepare. For quick gourmet chef, there's a way around this:
1. Hollandaise and Béarnaise: Both are available in glass jars. You should be able to find them in your local gourmet shop or supermarket.
2. Madeira, Armoricaine, Newburg, Supreme, et al: These, too, are available in jars or frozen, and will transform humble hamburger or leftover into a gourmet's dream.
3. Bottled Meat Sauces: Diable, Robert or Cumberland sauce, Worcestershire, and a wide range of mustards from Devilled to Bahamian to Dijon. Wash your hands thoroughly, use a judicious few tablespoons of whatever you fancy, and rub it thoroughly into chops and steaks. This replaces marinades which used to take hours.
4. Dessert Sauces: Be cautious about these! There are lots of edible varieties - but very few that come up to a gourmet's standard! . . . as you will see in our gourmet dessert section, there are innumerable quick tricks with liqueurs and fresh fruit for presenting gourmet desserts in a minute. ( http://www.easy-gourmet-cooking.com/gourmet-desserts/ )
5. Basting Sauces: Here you begin to be a gourmet chef, for a basting sauce is largely invention based on experience as you grow proficient with recipes. Basting sauces are used with fish, meat and poultry. Generally, they are melted butter blended with herbs - or spices - or fruit and fruit peels - with or without a dash of cooking wine. The precise ingredients depend upon final flavor desired: tangy, sultry, or sweetish.
The basting sauce should be made at start of cooking operation, placed over lowest possible heat, allowed to sit and grow acquainted with itself. A quarter pound of butter makes an adequate basting sauce; half a pound is sometimes better-if you can bring yourself to it!
The basic procedure is to combine butter chunks and desired seasonings or flavorings in a small saucepot (a stainless steel one-cup measure with a handle is satisfactory), and to obtain full savory blend by simmering gently during first steps of searing meat or poultry, firming fish flesh, etc. A basting sauce is used to moisten and flavor a dish during its cooking; it is brushed directly onto roasting meat or poultry with a pastry brush at 10 or 15 minute intervals, or poured over fish and broiled dishes every 5 minutes for quick cookery.
For long cooking roasts, when basting sauce has all been used, a roaster baster will pick up pan juices for moistening dish.
6. Wine & Wine Sauces: "The better wine, better dish" is gourmet standard ... although it's not necessary to buy fine vintage drinking wines for use in kitchen. If you have good local wine, do use it for cooking.
Never buy cooking wine or liquor purely on a price basis; cheap brands do not have sufficient alcoholic content to create a flambee dish - and will not have enough flavor to remain in sauce. White wines can be used for any recipes, but red wines can only be used for dark meats . . . when they will not discolor dish.