Posted by Chef Charles Knight on July 09, 2015
A WORLD FAMOUS chef once said, “Each meal is an event that happens only once.” Proper sauces are instruments to orchestrate the true melody of the meal. As melodramatic as this may sound, it is a fundamental truth that has survived changing tastes and food fads for centuries.
Sauces are unequivocally the heart and soul of memorable meals. Fortunately, there is nothing mysterious about making sauces. Let’s start with the reasons we need them in the first place. Simply put, sauces provide any cook with the “magic” to create dishes with captivating flavors and eye dazzling textures. What more could any aspiring great home cook wish for?
As magical as sauce may appear, they do have limits. Rich sauces should be used sparingly, never exceeding more than one sauce in a meal. Also, sauces are not foolproof remedies to erase cooking mistakes. The best of sauces fall short when used to disguise a poorly flavored or improperly prepared dish. Sauces can stretch food budgets, adding appetite appeal to leftovers and savoir fare to economical dishes such as chicken. So add a new dimension to your meals with the magical world of sauces.
The key to preparing great sauces goes far beyond fantastic ingredients. Equipment designed specifically for the home cook and the application of classical methods are or equal importance.
In the next few pages you will learn how to prepare sauce in both the classic method, derived from low sodium stocks, and the lighter versions. With appropriate and healthier alternatives, it’s all covered in the chapter of Healthy Meat and Potatoes, on my website www.healthcraft.com, and in my blog “Changing the Future of Healthy Home Cooking”.
Classic White and Brown Sauces
Most of the sauces we use today are divided, like stocks, into two main categories; white and brown. Differences in flavors result when various ingredients are added to either a basic white or brown sauce.
For instance, what is termed by the French as a “roux” is the basis of many sauces. It is prepared slowly cooking flour and butter in a pan. When milk and spices are added to a white sauce roux, it becomes a béchamel, creating a mother sauce. When cheeses are added, the basic béchamel becomes a Mornay Sauce, a splendid accompaniment for lobster, fish, chicken, vegetables dishes and poached eggs. When a roux is cooked with chicken or fish stock, it becomes a Velouté Sauce . Add cream and sautéed mushrooms to the same velouté, it becomes a Supreme Sauce . This is a richer sauce frequently used with hot hors d’oeuvres, au gratin potatoes and vegetables dishes. Adding specific ingredients to a béchamel or velouté easily makes dozens of other white sauces as well.
Adding other ingredients to a basic roux also creates a whole pantheon of brown sauces. The “mother” of all brown sauces is called a demi-glace, created essentially by slowly simmering veal stock and the basic brown sauce together to a delicious thickened consistency. Different ingredients added to the demi-glace will change the taste and mission of the resulting sauce. Brown sauce are traditionally used to enhance the flavors of meat, fowl and game dishes.
In addition to the classic and light versions of the French sauces, there are recipes for many of the other sauces, such as Hollandaise Sauce , Spaghetti Sauce , Barbecue Sauce and Cranberry Sauce , that we use to enhance our foods.
Chef Charles Knight