Source of Recipe
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A sauce is a flavorful liquid that is most often thickened and used to season, flavor or enhance the food that it is served with. It should create interest and stimulate the appetite by adding moisture, flavor and a rich appearance to the dish.
The basic structure of most sauces is made up of three components, a liquid, a thickening agent and the seasoning and flavoring ingredients. So let's tackle that first.
The liquid is the base of the sauce and there are five liquids that most sauces or "Mother Sauces" are made of. White Stock, Brown Stock, Milk, Tomato or Clarified Butter. The most common sauces are based on stocks, so an understanding of basic stock preparation is important. Yes, there are shortcuts or products that you can buy to skip this step, I'll cover that.
A stock should be a clear liquid, which gets its flavor from meat, poultry, fish and their bones. Vegetables and seasonings also contribute to a stock. The type of bones used determines the type of stock. Chicken bones make a chicken stock, White stock is made from beef or veal bones, Brown stock is made from roasted beef or veal bones and fish bones (usually a white fish) and trimmings make for a fish stock or "Fumet". The bones, cartilage, connective tissue and trimmings form gelatin when they break down in the cooking process, This gives a wonderful body to the stock.
The second component of the stock is the vegetables. The basic formula is 2 parts onion to one part each of celery and carrots chopped coarsely. Sometimes tomatoes and even a little red wine are added in a brown stock. A fish stock might get the flavor benefit from a little white wine. Salt in my opinion should not be used in stock. I use bay leaf, peppercorns, fresh parsley, and a little thyme. (sometimes a clove of garlic in a brown stock)
To make a stock, follow these simple steps. Break, cut or saw the bones into smaller pieces and rinse under cold water. (If making a brown stock, lightly oil the bones and roast them in a hot oven for an hour to give them a nice color) Place the bones in a large pot and cover with COLD water. Bring to just a boil and reduce heat. Remove any scum that may rise to the top. Add the vegetables and spices and simmer. 6 hours or more for beef, 3 hours for poultry and just under an hour for fish. Strain the stock and cool as quickly as possible. Once cold you'll notice a gelatinous texture to the stock. That's a good thing. If any fat has risen to the top and hardened, remove it now.
Stocks that are further reduced from this point are called glazes or glace. They are reduced to the point that they coat the back of a spoon. Their flavor is intense and when chilled are almost solid or rubbery. At this point, I usually freeze the glace in ice cube trays and store the cubes in the freezer until needed.
Sound like a lot of work, not really, and now you have stock to make any number of sauces. You can buy bases in a number of flavors, chicken, beef, pork, lobster, shrimp, vegetable and more. And many types of concentrates are available like roasted garlic, mushroom, red bell pepper, different types of chilies, etc. These bases and concentrates will produce a great flavored stock or soup base for you to start with. They will not have the gelatinous properties of a reduced stock. They are available in small quantities and have a great shelf life in your refrigerator. Minor's bases are probably the most common used by chefs, personal chefs and caterers. You can find them at FlavorSolutions.com by clicking here: http://ads.chef2chef.net/goto.php?id=79
Also available are actual stock reductions and glazes made the same way as I described above. They come in the same variety of flavors like the bases and more. Best used for clear sauces and glazes! Go to http://www.clubsauce.com and look for the link to the "More Than Gourmet" . These products as well as the bases can be used to enhance your stock instead of just using salt to bring up the flavor.
There is more info at the bottom of this page about these vendors. Please support them as they help make Chef2Chef.net possible
Thickening agents: This is where many good sauces go bad. You must understand the best way to tighten you sauce to achieve the proper texture, flavor and appearance. Let's discuss this briefly.
Starches are the most common thickeners used in sauces. Flour being the primary starch. Other types of starches like cornstarch and arrowroot are also widely used. Let's look at these. Starch granules absorb water and swell and they must be separated before heating in liquid to avoid lumping. There are two ways to do that. The first way is to mix the starch with a type of fat and the second way is to mix the starch with a cold liquid.
Flour is used in sauces and gravies that are not clear. The flour clouds the sauce. The preferred way to tighten a sauce with flour is to make a "Roux". A roux (pronounced roo) is a cooked mixture of equal parts by weight of fat and flour. My recommendation is to use clarified butter or margarine to make a roux. Clarified butter is butter that has been melted and separated from the salts and water that sits at the bottom of the pan. Place the desired amount of your choice of fat in a pan and stir in the equal amount (by weight) of flour and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the roux and keep it from getting any color if using for a white (milk based) sauce. Stir often with a whisk. It's OK for it to darken a little for brown sauces. You'll notice a "Nutty" aroma coming from a well-prepared roux. Once a roux is prepared it will in your refrigerator for a month or so if properly stored.
You can mix equal parts of soft butter and flour together well and use that to quickly tighten a sauce at the end of preparation, but I recommend the roux as you won't have the flour flavor.
Cornstarch is another popular thickener and will produce a sauce that is nearly clear and glossy. To use it, mix the cornstarch in a small bowl with just enough water to make a smooth mixture called a "Slurry". You add it carefully to a boiling liquid and stir. Keep cooking for a few minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Don't boil a sauce thickened with cornstarch for an extended time as it will begin to break down and lose some of it's thickness. Cornstarch is used a lot in sweet clear sauces. Arrowroot is used in the same way as cornstarch and is my preference because it produces a clearer sauce, but it is quite a bit more costly.
There are other thickeners you can use including eggs and even breadcrumbs. We'll touch on those later maybe.
With this knowledge you are ready to begin making many different types of sauces. We'll touch on tomato, butter sauces and some fun glazes in a day or two.
Today we'll make some sauces using a roux. Here is a basic formula: A roux made from 8 ounces of butter and 8 ounces of flour will thicken a gallon of liquid. So about an ounce will thicken one cup of liquid. I will assume in these recipes that you have some roux prepared already. So you might want to do that. Oh and one more tip, never add a hot roux to a boiling liquid, it can splatter and burn you or at lest make a mess.
List of Ingredients
White Sauce (Bechamel Sauce)
1 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. of minced onion
1 cup whole milk or Half and Half
pinch of salt, white pepper and nutmeg
roux, about one ounce
Melt the butter and quickly saute the onion being careful not to brown it. Add the milk and bring to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over. Add the seasonings, very light on the nutmeg and keep at a low boil for a minute.
Add a little roux and stir with a whisk constantly. The sauce will begin to thicken for you. Be careful not to add too much roux. Add it a little at a time until the sauce coats the back of a spoon like a heavy cream soup consistency. Allow it to cook for a few minutes to get rid of any starchiness that might come from the roux.
Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove the onion.
You have just made a basic Bechamel Sauce. Doesn't sound that exciting. Wait til you see what you can do from here! Here are some ideas that will keep you busy. Remember, this is one of the Mother Sauces I spoke of earlier.
To your 1 cup of Bechamel you can add these ingredients to make a variety of sauces.
For a Cream Sauce, just add 1-2 ounces of Heavy Cream that has been heated.
For a Mornay Sauce, just add an ounce of grated Gruyere and a healthy pinch of Parmesan. Whisk in until melted and add a tsp. of fresh butter to finish. Thin with milk if necessary.
For a Cheddar Cheese Sauce, add a couple ounces on grated cheddar cheese and a pinch of dry mustard. Whisk to incorporate.
For a Mustard Sauce add tablespoon or more of your favorite mustard to the sauce. Taste for the desired flavor.
Basic Chicken Sauce (Veloute)
1 cup of Chicken Stock, Chicken Broth, or even water and a bouillon cube
Roux , about an ounce
Bring the stock to a boil and add your roux slowly until you get the perfect sauce consistency. You have the beginnings of many Chicken Sauces. Here is a simple one for a Chicken Supreme Sauce. Just add a couple ounces of Heavy Cream to your Veloute and you are there! Then you can try this:
For a Chicken and Mushroom Supreme Sauce, just saute 8 sliced button mushrooms in a little butter. Maybe add a touch of fresh garlic to the pan. Do not brown the garlic or mushrooms. You could even add just a splash of white wine and cook it off. Add the Chicken Supreme Sauce to the pan and blend. Adjust seasonings. Serve over a sauteed or baked Chicken breast.
Are you getting it? Once you have the base, you can go anywhere with it. Add Artichoke Hearts and fresh Asparagus with a pinch of dry mustard and a little diced Pimento and you have a wonderful sauce for a chicken dish. The sky is the limit.
Brown Sauce (Espagnole)
1 cup Brown Stock, Beef Broth or even water and bouillon
Roux, about an ounce
Bring the stock to a boil, tighten slowly with the roux and simmer for a few minutes. Strain. Adjust seasonings. If you sauce needs salt, I recommend that you use a little beef base or crumbled bouillon cube. You are ready to try anything now.
Hunter's Sauce for 4
1 tsp. Butter
5 button mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. minces red onion
1 ounce of white wine
1 tsp. fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. tarragon leaves
1 cup brown sauce
1/4 cup of prepared pasta sauce, like Ragu Chunky Style
3 tbsp. diced tomato, Roma
Saute the mushrooms and onion in the butter for a couple minutes in a hot skillet. Add the wine and allow it to reduce a bit. Add the parsley and tarragon and stir in until you get a blast of tarragon fragrance in your nose. Add the brown sauce and pasta sauce and heat to a boil. Add the diced tomato and simmer for two minutes. Serve over chicken, veal medallions, rabbit, grilled pork chops, or any game bird.